IBM introduces its first Linux-only mainframe

Trying to stretch the appeal of its zSeries of mainframes to the lower end of the market, IBM Corp. on Friday introduced its first Linux-only member of that family aimed at users looking to consolidate workloads from as few as 20 Intel servers.

Code-named Raptor, the zSeries For Linux system is the first mainframe not to contain one of IBM's proprietary operating systems, although the version of Linux on it does include the virtualization software borrowed from IBM's Virtual Machine (VM) operating system.

The system will be aimed at users looking to consolidate a range of infrastructure servers typically responsible for Web and application serving, firewalls, e-mailing and messaging -- markets where archrival Sun Microsystems has held a dominant position.

"This offering is not aimed at our existing mainframe users, but rather at helping us get outside the data center and capture workloads that users are deploying on Intel and Unix servers," said Rich Lechner, vice president of sales and marketing for IBM's Enterprise eServers.

Some observers think IBM purposely picked its higher end platform on which to debut a Linux-only server so as to send a message to corporate IT shops about how committed the company is to establishing Linux as a meaningful platform for mission-critical applications"They could have picked something lower in the food chain that was cheaper, but they have opted for the higher-end platform to highlight to IT managers how sincere they are in putting [Linux] in large enterprise configurations," said Vernon Turner, International Data Corp.'s group vice president in charge of server research in Framingham, Mass.

According to Lechner, one cost saving the system affords is that with only Linux running, the system eliminates the human and technical investments necessary to support and maintain the more complex IBM proprietary operating environments.

What helped drive the decision to ship a Linux-only system was the 15 percent growth in unit shipments that the zSeries experienced in 2001, according to company officials in its earnings call to financial analysts earlier this month. They said 11 percent of all MIPS shipped in last year's fourth quarter were from Linux.

"It was clear to us the market was ready for a Linux-only version of a mainframe," Lechner said.

IBM will also deliver the iSeries for Linux system aimed at small to medium-size companies. That system will feature the company's partitioning technology that allows users to consolidate up to 15 stand-alone Linux and Windows-based departmental servers.

Unlike other zSeries systems shipped before it, the new system will come with not one but three years of on-site maintenance.

Both systems are expected to available by the end of this quarter.

For more information on the two new servers, users can go to www.ibm.com.

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