Jul 2 ’13

Linux on System z:  Springing Forward

by David Boyes, Ph.D. in Enterprise Tech Journal

After a short break, a number of trips to customers overseas and a lot of R&D, it’s nice to be back. The break gave me a good chance to do some hardcore research. Here’s what I found:

VM Workshop Tools “Tapes” in VMARC Format

The Linux on System z world keeps plugging along with new parts and a few new toys worth mentioning. First on the list, the archives of useful z/VM and Linux tools at vmworkshop.org continue to grow. In the past, the annual VM Workshop meetings were accompanied by collections of useful gadgets written by attendee organizations, and everyone went home with a copy of the collection on tape. Although we don’t make tapes anymore, five years of tools “tapes” (from 1996 to the present) have been recovered and posted online in VMARC format. There are dozens of useful items in these collections that can help integrate and automate the operation of a Linux farm from CMS. The collection is located at http://vmworkshop.org/tools and includes a description of how to download and unpack the tools. We have the physical tapes dating back to 1986, and will add more to the collection as we can copy and vet whether the material is still usable.

The Mz z/VM and Linux Farm Management Tool

The second item that’s worth highlighting is a side project that Mike MacIsaac at IBM has been working on: a z/VM and Linux farm management tool called “Mz.” Mz provides a way to create and visualize the connections and information about a farm of Linux guests running under the benign overlordship of a z/VM system. It provides a way to create, manage and destroy virtual servers, and Mike has just added some overall resource utilization tooling. The entire program is written in bash and is a great example of using the z/VM System Management API (SMAPI) to control a Linux system using both the Linux and CMS tooling. If you’ve read the Linux on System z Redbooks, the layout of the systems will look familiar—Mike is also the editor of those fine resources. The source code for Mz can be downloaded from sourceforge.net (http://sourceforge.net/projects/managing-z/) and, since Mike’s a good IBMer, there’s a great set of docs. Highly recommended—great work, Mike.

Update to Version 6 of CentOS on System z

The long-awaited update to CentOS on System z to version 6 is available. If you haven’t encountered CentOS before, it’s a recompile of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) source code on multiple platforms that delivers a functional equivalent to the RHEL release of the same number. The mainline CentOS project has chosen to focus on the Intel platform, but a number of aficionados of the distribution have banded together to deliver a fully updated version of the distribution for versions 6.2 and 6.3 for System z (version 6.4 is trickling out as this column is being written). The new release is available from http://download.sinenomine.net/clefos. Several commercial vendors have employed CentOS on other platforms for creating appliance virtual machines, and the hope is that having equivalent tooling available for System z will promote similar approaches. The build and integration process are completely automated, and updates are made available as soon as the source code is posted from upstream.

The VM Workshop June 20 to 23

The last item is the upcoming 2013 VM Workshop June 20 to 23, in Indianapolis. If you haven’t encountered the VM Workshop, it’s best described as “a user-driven, user-managed collection of presentations and networking that aims to be the cheapest place to learn z/VM and Linux.” A number of the familiar names from the IBM-VM mailing lists show up, and everyone is welcome to come and talk about their items of interest. There’s the tools tape mentioned previously, and it’s still a great bargain—the whole conference (including food and housing) costs less than a one-night hotel stay at the usual suspects. Check out http://vmworkshop.org for the whole story. I’ll be there and hope you will be, too.

See you all soon in Indianapolis!