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Infocrossing and S/390 Linux: An ASP's Story - page 2

A Visit to the Co-Lo Penitentiary

  • February 28, 2001
  • By Scott Courtney

Public-access sites can also experience sharp peaks in demand as a result of news events or other external, random factors. Laudati says that Infocrossing customers experiencing sudden, unanticipated peaks, can dynamically purchase additional capacity and then release it when it is no longer needed. "We can monitor [MIPS usage]. When it gets to around eighty or ninety percent, we can dynamically increase the amount of resources provided." For customers using rack-mounted RISC or Intel servers, additional hardware may have to be brought online, but with Linux running on an S/390, the entire process can be handled trivially by a system operator or even automatically by a load management program.

Reliability is the other factor that keeps Infocrossing firmly in the pro-mainframe camp. They have customers using other systems, such as Solaris, Linux, and NT on RISC and Intel hardware. Infocrossing even uses NT (sometimes with Citrix products for remote access) in its own systems. But when the bottom line is depending on the machine never going down, Linux running under IBM's VM hypervisor operating system is the configuration of choice.

Infocrossing can in some ways be thought of as a "fourth tier" provider, according to Tom Laudati. Using the ACTS testing company's deployment as an example, he illustrates Infocrossing's role this way: "We have the end user as the first tier, then the school [as the second], then ACTS is providing the application, then we provide the infrastructure." In other words, Infocrossing provides a place for ASPs to host their applications but is not itself an ASP, at least in this particular context.

Although a long-term (and satisfied) partner with IBM, Infocrossing found that IBM's middleware and management products didn't provide the full depth of capabilities that they wanted to offer their clients. They started with IBM's Tivoli management framework as a base, then added a proprietary upper layer as a value-added proposition for their own managed hosting customers. Says Laudati, "We've actually developed a product called Infocap, using Tivoli as a framework, which will manage...NT or UNIX [or Linux] environments out there." He adds that this was not a trivial effort: "It took a dozen engineers about fifteen or sixteen months to get this integrated."

IBM's Tivoli products, most of which are now available for Linux, include tools for security management (Policy Director, PKI, Secure Way Directory, and others), storage management (Tivoli Storage Manager), trouble ticketing (Tivoli Service Desk), and other infrastructural functions. Robert Graham, Infocrossing's Chief Technical Officer, refers to Tivoli as a "marketecture" umbrella containing products that are not always designed from the ground up to work together. Moreover, the Tivoli suite of products is an enterprise-class framework, and that kind of software requires more than just installation. There is an entire design process in which an enterprise has to decide how they want to use the tools that Tivoli provides. Infocrossing's executives say the company is very satisfied with the Tivoli product suite, but emphasize that Tivoli is an enabling framework, not a simple end-user application program.

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