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Enterprise Linux Today: A First Look at IBM's Linux Community Development System

May 07, 2001, 22:29 (11 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Scott Courtney)
"It's not uncommon to hear Open Source advocates talking about "free speech" and "free beer" when defining the word "free." That being the case, let's just say that IBM is about to throw a kegger on both counts. Within the next few days, the company is slated to open the doors to the new Linux Community Development System (LCDS), giving away free access to a high-end S/390 mainframe with very few strings attached. The aim is to spur development of Open Source applications on S/390 Linux. Many small Open Source projects -- no, let's be realistic: many Open Source projects of any size -- can't afford to buy a System/390 or zSeries mainframe to test their code for portability. IBM knows this, and they want to help small-scale developers test their code on the big iron. So they've dedicated a beast of a machine to the LCDS project and are giving a free S/390 Linux instance, with full root privileges, to just about anyone who asks.

I was offered the opportunity to take an early look at the LCDS environment, and have been testing with one of the first hundred accounts for about a week now. The system is still in a pre-release status, and there are still some problems that need to be addressed. IBM has a team working on the technical problems full-time, and the system will go live whenever they are satisfied that everything is ready. Since there will almost certainly be changes in the Linux guest environment before the system goes live, this article should be thought of as a "first look" at the LCDS.

The physical hardware, which is shared by all Linux guests, is a 9672 G6 ZX7 with ten processor nodes and 32 gigabytes of real memory. Even in mainframe circles, this is a pretty sizable box. For storage, IBM has attached a Shark 2105-F20 with 2.1 terabytes online. Each Linux guest gets 128 meg of "real memory" and one "processor" in the virtual environment. The Linux kernel thinks that this memory and processor are physical hardware but in fact they are allocated as virtualized resources by the VM/ESA operating system, which acts as a hypervisor. The root filesystem of each Linux guest is about 480 megabytes, which sounds small until you consider that /usr and /opt are on separate file systems that are mounted read-only."

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