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Sun: Linux on the Mainframe--Not a Good Idea

Feb 22, 2002, 17:54 (85 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Shahin Khan)

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"Just as it is important to understand when technology can provide you with an advantage, it is equally valuable to know when a technology is not suited to a particular task regardless of how 'hot' that technology might be. Sun does see a place for Linux in the IT infrastructure, as evidenced by our recent announcement to ship Linux-based servers. Sun introduced low-priced, horizontal Linux servers as an alternative to proprietary systems. Suited for Web delivery at the edge of the network, Linux servers offer an alternative to proprietary and closed environments such as Microsoft Windows.

Recently, IBM announced a new 'Linux-only' mainframe, the z800, which IBM is promoting as a way to consolidate multiple Linux and Unix[r] servers(1). Running Linux on a mainframe doesn't change the fact that you must still maintain an expensive, proprietary system, defeating the whole purpose of introducing open standards like Linux. Although it's technically possible to configure such a system, the question remains, 'How well-suited is the system to the task?'

Linux on the mainframe just doesn't compute. Here's why:

Linux on the mainframe is actually hosted by another proprietary operating system, z/VM. The optimized operating system for IBM mainframes is z/OS, formerly called MVS(2). Compared to z/OS, z/VM is a niche operating system with virtual machine (VM) support for new hardware features added late or often not at all(3). And Linux isn't designed to run in a virtual machine; implementation decisions that make sense on PC hardware don't fit well in a virtual machine(4). This is Linux. It's designed for Intel. It's not tuned for the mainframe hardware in which it's running."

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