IT Management

The Linux operating system (OS), introduced in the early ’90s, first grew slowly in popularity, has gained momentum in recent years, and is now a hot industry topic across platforms and vendors. Linux has emerged from its below-radar niche to become a serious contender on multiple computing architectures, including the S/390.

David Boyes, co-founder and CTO of Sine Nomine Associates (SNA), a 20-person consulting firm based in Virginia, has worked with Linux since its beginning. He’s been especially active developing and supporting Linux on S/390. Among his many industry-recognized accomplishments is Test Plan Charlie, which demonstrated mainframe Linux scalability by running tens of thousands of Linux instances under VM in one G5 LPAR, networked through Linux guests as software routers, all connected via VM’s native virtual channel-to-channel adapters. His 20 years of experience span multiple academic institutions, hardware and software vendors, and high-tech consultancies.

With bachelor’s degrees in physics and English literature, and advanced degrees in history, classics, and economics, David has watched and helped—through research, development, and education—the expansion from mainframe-centric computing to distributed and networked systems, and has played a leading role in meshing the best of today’s mainframes with distributed/ networked facilities.

z/Journal asked long-time mainframer, Gabe Goldberg, to get David’s perspective on why Linux has emerged as a transforming technology, and his insight on how Linux advances will affect future enterprise computing.

z/Journal: What accounts for Linux’s accelerating growth and relatively new perception as being ready for corporate use?

Boyes: Three things: source code availability for inspection and modification; an intensive code review process that validates its usefulness and correctness; and its cost-effective availability on commodity hardware.

In order for Linux to be “corporate ready,” IBM’s public backing is key. Much like the PC, the concept didn’t catch on until IBM lent its ultra-conservative image and credibility with big vendors. It’s a perception issue, and the pre-IBM days are easy to dismiss, as the players at the time were generally perceived as late adopters of innovation. However, when the world’s largest computer company steps up, it’s a strategic move.

z/Journal: Describe some current projects you are working on.

Boyes: Our current zSeries-related technical projects focus on simplifying and improving the performance of networking technology available for all zSeries OSes and investigating how Linux “appliance” systems address longstanding functionality gaps in Internet and e-business services provided by standard IBM IP offerings.

Our R&D folks are working in several different areas, including hybrid system management techniques for Intel and zSeries processing complexes, data management and auto-cataloging for gridattached systems serving data, and others that are so neat I’m not allowed to talk about them (laugh).

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