It's no secret Linux is a rising IT star, but the mainframe's comeback may not be so well known.
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The established big-iron veteran, particularly IBM's zSeries, has reveled in four straight quarters of year-over-year revenue growth, and industry observers are taking a serious look at Linux's role in that spurt.
Platform consolidation is driving companies back to the mainframe, and using Linux gives enterprises a standardized platform to develop on, said Jonathan Eunice, principal analyst with research firm Illuminata Inc. of Nashua, N.H.
"With Linux on the mainframe, we're seeing a distilled vision of Linux as a standardization element, as opposed to being a cheap way of running computer gear," Eunice said. On the mainframe, Linux is not necessarily the operating system of choice. The scheduling, partitioning, security and other functions are handled by the VM operating system.
"Linux is a guest atop the infrastructure; it's not doing the heavy lifting," Eunice said. "Linux is a place to write code to and depend as a standardized computing environment that can run on the pSeries, AMD, Intel or Itanium."
Enterprises are committing mission-critical applications to Linux on the mainframe, with the latest announced today in Germany. Endress+Hauser, a supplier of measuring instruments and automation tools for the industrial process engineering industry, has consolidated its global SAP R/3 system from a Unix platform to the zSeries 990, using 36 integrated facilities for Linux.
The announcement is significant because of the applications being run on the platform, and the size of the implementation, said Mike Bliss, zSeries technical support manager.
"This is a prime example of how different technologies help business do consolidation by meshing Linux with traditional mainframe strengths," Bliss said. "This is the perfect solution if you want to do a consolidation project onto a platform that is built for multiple workloads."
Endress+Hauser said running its SAP apps on Linux and the zSeries improves availability, productivity and security. Moving off Unix and consolidating onto the mainframe cuts costs and simplifies management.
The enterprise deployed two zSeries 990 mainframes at its Weil am Rhein data center that support 3,500 users worldwide with plenty of room for growth. It runs 19 production SAP systems on 14 logical partitions (LPARs) on the mainframes, with related SAP DB2 databases distributed on six LPARs.
"This is not about Linux standing on its own, but working on the same system with other workloads," Bliss said.
IBM's most recent quarterly earnings report indicated mainframe revenue skyrocketed 44% year-over-year and represents IBM's largest growth segment among its hardware divisions.
"One thing that's causing this resurgence is many businesses out there are struggling to balance the cost and complexity of their infrastructures. All of them want to trim costs," Bliss said. "Consolidation is a huge way to get a handle on more efficient operations."