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The Ultimate Install Fest: Linux on the IBM System/390 - page 2

Recycling the Mainframe with Linux

  • July 31, 2000
  • By Scott Courtney

It is fairly common in the software industry for a company to make a loud and strong commitment to a technology, only to back down later when the world seems to be going in another direction. We can all think of examples; there is no need to list them here. So, is IBM serious about Linux? Or is it just blowing with the wind, and with as much constancy?

The answer seems to be that yes, IBM is very serious about Linux. Peter McCaffrey, System/390 Program Director, says, "Customer response has taken us by surprise," and IBM did not expect as much interest in Linux on the mainframe as it has actually seen. Many companies have just downloaded the free code to gain some experience with it and to see what it can do. Yet some large customers are looking very hard at Linux for real-world applications.

IBM has been getting the message loud and clear from its customers that Linux on S/390 is a hot product--and that IBM needed to refine the installation process if people were going to make it work as anything other than a lab toy. McCaffrey says customers weren't happy with the cryptic, sparsely-documented installation instructions, or with some of IBM's pricing policies that made Linux a poor business choice for some installations. The message, according to McCaffrey, was, "You've got to make this easier, and you've got to make this less expensive!"

The Install Fest was one of IBM's responses to the issue of installation complexity. Another was IBM's recently announced partnership with SuSE and TurboLinux, both adding System/390 as a supported hardware platform for their mainstream Linux distributions. The SuSE product is currently considered to be at late-beta stage, while the TurboLinux offering is scheduled for release this fall. Customers will be able to get support for their S/390 installations of Linux from three sources: the distribution provider, IBM Global Services (which will support both SuSE and TurboLinux), and the Internet itself. Linux on S/390 is very compatible (at the source code level) with other Linux ports, so many of the HOWTOs, newsgroup posts, and other online resources are just as applicable to mainframe Linux as they are to Intel or MIPS or Alpha ports.

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