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IBM brings DB2 and WebSphere to mainframe Linux

IBM’s using Linux to deliver e-business on mainframes; may prove to be competition for Sun.

Yesterday, IBM took a bite out of Sun by replacing Scandinavia’s biggest telecomm and ISP Telia’s Sun Web-hosting servers with a single IBM mainframe S/390 G6 enterprise unit running SuSE Linux under the hood. Today, Big Blue is announcing that it’s bringing both its DB2 DBMS Enterprise Edition and Web application server software, WebSphere Advanced Edition, to mainframe Linux.

Scott Handy, IBM director of Linux Solutions Marketing, explains, “IBM has moved into Linux because of customer demand.” He adds that “traditionally, ISPs have used racks of servers,” like those from Sun, and “by addressing this with Linux Virtual Machines on a IBM mainframe, IBM will impact Sun.”

By bringing both DB2 and WebSphere to mainframe Linux, Handy points out that this brings e-commerce and e-business power to the mainframe. Specifically, he notes that on the extremely stable underpinning of the Virtual Machine operating system, those Linux driven applications enable developers to build complete soup-to-nuts e-solutions on a single machine. With one mainframe, a customer could run thousands of Virtual Linux servers that use WebSphere to design their Web interfaces, while using DB2 and IBM’s new IMS Connect to pull data directly out of DB2 databases, mainframe commercial-transaction systems, and older databases. IBM + Linux partners = customers

Customers wanting to use those services will be encouraged to go through IBM Global Services. The Linux partners–Red Hat, SuSE and TurboLinux–will be providing tightly integrated and bundled packages of their 390 Linuxes and the IBM software. For a revenue stream, the companies will be providing Level three support through Global Services. The Linux powers’ profit from the mainframe deals will come from revenue-sharing contracts with IBM.

But the Linux companies and their reseller partners aren’t limited to playing a supporting role. Paul McNamara, Red Hat’s VP of Products and Marketing, says that Red Hat expects “to have direct relations with some 390 customers where we’ll provide Level one through to three support.” McNamara also sees the possibility of “other customer deals, like configuration management and performance management, where Red Hat and its resellers would be the senior partners in a 390 deal.”

But where will the customers come from? McNamara thinks that a big selling point will be that with the combination of IBM and Linux, customers will like knowing that they can get applications that can grow on a single common operating system from Intel-based servers to IBM mainframes with every step in between also covered.

To that, Dan Kusnetzky, IDC’s VP of System Software Research adds, from a prepared statement, “Linux is seeing increasing usage as a part of basic IT infrastructure at many organizations. IBM has positioned itself well to be considered one of the leading suppliers in this emerging market.” In short, IBM supported Linux is becoming part of the enterprise IT infrastructure already. Horizontal, as well as vertical

IBM isn’t just focusing on the potent promise of mainframe Linux. The company also announced that DB2 Universal Database for Linux would be made available on Intel-based clusters. WebSphere, already available on single Intel CPU Linux, also will be supported on the clusters. That way, a company can scale either vertically up to RISC or mainframe architectures, or horizontally on existing Intel servers. Here Handy explains that the new database will be supported not only by Red Hat, SuSE and TurboLinux, but also by Caldera Systems. Unlike the other Big Four Linux vendors, Caldera, according to CEO Ransom Love, has opted to focus on the Intel side of its business. But, according to Handy, IBM is still partnering with Caldera on the Intel platforms.

IBM also announced that the DB2 Universal Database for Linux will be available on December 15, with new WebSphere for Linux on Intel release on December 22, the mainframe, zSeries, version will be out on January 26, 2001.

That last date is optimistic for a full rollout. Only SuSE is currently shipping a 390 Linux. TurboLinux still promises one by the end of the year. Red Hat’s McNamara freely admits that Red Hat won’t be rolling out its mainframe Linux until quarter one 2001, and as for the bundled operating system, DBMS and Web application server, he expects that it won’t be out until the second quarter. IBM may be gunning for Sun, but Sun will have time to reload.

A version of this story was first published in Sm@rt Partner.

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