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Paul Ferris: IBM's zSeries Win at LWE in New York

Feb 05, 2001, 11:00 (11 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Paul Ferris)

By Paul Ferris, LinuxToday

You can tell these are exciting times for Ed Gauthier, and his enthusiasm is unmistakable. He's Program Manager for IBM's zSeries and S/390 Marketing and Enterprise Server division, which just won the Best Hardware award for the Linux World Expo 2001. If you can see the picture, this ain't the kind of machine you're going to find in your neighbor's basement. That is, unless your neighbor has some kind of serious computing to do, and some serious spare change to accompany.

But it's not meant to be a toy -- it's really a serious computer for people who need it. The Linux ports to IBM's S/390 and zSeries are one of those "Whoda thunk it" things that I don't think anyone could have predicted.

But they're here, anyway. So, what's all the excitement about?

Elliott explains to me that a lot of new customers are coming to the IBM booth to see it with their own two eyes. The zSeries port is generating excitement because it provides people with large-scale computing needs that pertain to Linux with solutions that simply haven't existed in this space before. "They're starting to hear that we can do things very economically on a per-server basis", he says.

But it's not just that, younger people who have come from a more client/server background are getting a taste of the features that only VM can provide. Things like being able to try out a new server configuration on the same machine without affecting important production servers. Things like using several distributions at once. Things like having hundreds of virtual Linux boxes at your beck and call. The demo in the booth is creating them at the rate of one every 90 seconds. When Gauthier shows off the zSeries features the feedback is generally very favorable. "They say things like 'baby where have you been all my life?' -- and it was Linux that made things possible."

But this isn't new technology -- it's very well developed, over thirty years old. Linux has added to the zSeries a component that draws in a new market for IBM.

I still can't help but kid around with Gauthier and Product Manager Jim Elliott -- I have to ask about a laptop version.

The reaction is a bit of a train wreck. Of course, you can already get Thinkpads that run Linux from IBM. It's just that 20 CPUs with what appears to be components made to withstand the brunt of a nuclear blast are overkill for most people's laptop computing needs. Besides all that, there's enough multiuser computing potential to power the needs of the entire show floor at once -- let alone the game of Tetris or Quake that the average user is going to need.

Ed explains that in many of the booths they're using the mainframe over Internet protocol. It's merely a twist on the whole blurred computing paradigm that IBM is now making available with products like these. Ed laughs anyway -- he explains that he loves his job at IBM because "I get to play with the toys first".

But, no -- no laptop version of the zSeries in sight.

Regardless, Gauthier plays along and assures me of two things: For one thing, if it's going to happen, it won't be for a few years. And for another "If we do get a laptop version (of the zSeries) -- I get it first!".

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