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IBM announces iSeries, zSeries Linux-only systems

Kate Evans-Correia

IBM announced Friday plans to deliver Linux-only zSeries and iSeries systems targeted at users managing large server farms who are eager to consolidate Linux applications on to one system.

The move by IBM to offer Linux-only servers is also an attempt to woo customers away from Sun Microsystems.

Last year, IBM pledged to spend $1 billion on Linux and now offers Linux on all of its servers, but these are the first Linux-dedicated servers from IBM.

"The idea of a Linux-only system isn't necessarily a novel idea," said Bill Claybrook, Aberdeen Group's research director for Linux and open source software.

But, it isn't a bad one, either.

"You'd have to be on Mars not to know how serious IBM is about Linux," said Claybrook. "But, a lot of this is directed at competing with Sun. IBM is trying to make it cost effective to users who have a lot of front end servers to make it attractive to move onto one of their machines. But, Sun isn't going to sit still."

The zSeries offering for Linux consolidates from 20 to hundreds of Sun and Intel servers and bringing the level of service, security, performance to an entirely new class of customers, according to Susan DeKeukelaere, program director for Linux for zSeries Marketing. Utilizing the mainframe's ability to create hundreds of virtual Linux servers on a single physical box, saves customers substantially on energy, floor space, and maintenance expense.

IBM also announced plans to deliver what it said is an aggressively priced Linux server specifically for small and medium-sized businesses. The iSeries offering for Linux uses IBM's advanced "partitioning" technology and can consolidate up to 15 standalone Linux and Windows servers onto a single physical server. It supports the SuSE and Turbolinux distributions of Linux and includes an installation wizard for rapid deployment.

Both servers are intended for infrastructure applications such as firewall, Web serving, file and print serving, and mail serving and are expected to be available by the end of March.

"I think what's going to be attractive to customers, particularly mainframe users, said Claybrook, is the potential for cost savings."

Adding new engines to OS/390 servers can skyrocket the cost of operating the system because software licensing fees are upped every time a new engine is added, regardless if that engine is being used for those mainframe apps, said DeKeukelaere. This kind of pricing policy doesn't exist with Linux application software.

Although IBM is banking on an increase in Linux applications for all their servers and said it is putting forth great effort to promote the development of Linux-based software with their (Independent Software Vendors) ISV's, Claybrook doubts that the iSeries user will see as much benefit from a Linux-only server as the mainframe user.

"These systems are going to be the best deal for the zSeries users," said Claybrook. "These people were already moving from those Sun servers and Web servers over to Linux. On the iSeries -- I don't know how many people are going to go out and buy an iSeries to do Linux consolidations unless there's a really good cost reason to do it.

The zSeries allows users to run hundreds of copies of Linux, while on the iSeries, the number of Linux copies s is limited by the number of partitions, said Claybrook. "You max out at 15," he said. "From that standpoint, it's less interesting."

But Lennie Boroigh, senior program manager, iSeries product marketing said he thinks the pricing, as well as the desire to consolidate, will lure customers to a Linux-only iSeries server.

"We're very aggressive in the pricing," he said. "We can offer customers a better way to manage and control their servers at a real attractive price point. If you have 10 or 15 Linux apps on Wintel, why worry about how to manage it? You could buy one of these and run up to 15 Linux servers in these partitions. We've modified the current operating system, V5R1, to make this almost a turnkey system."

IBM did not disclose its pricing of the new servers.

Boroigh did stress that the company's strategy with the Linux-only systems is to target users looking to consolidate Linux applications. "We're targeting our efforts at Linux consolidation workloads, not the OS/400 [or the OS/390]."

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