Mainframe Linux to get management boost

IBM, Computer Associates International and BMC Software will announce products this week that should help customers manage Linux applications on mainframes.

At the SHARE user conference last week, IBM gave details on a mainframe application that will let customers install hundreds of copies of Linux without requiring extensive mainframe programming skills, while CA and BMC will introduce software for managing S/390-based Linux applications, and security and storage functions.

Installations of Linux are growing at more than double the pace of other operating systems, and it is becoming increasingly popular on mainframes. IBM has seen about 4,000 downloads of the Linux mainframe software from the Web since January. IBM envisions enterprise-class applications such as DB2 and Lotus Domino as Linux applications on mainframes feeding fast mainframe Web servers. Customers using a mainframe to run Linux applications can take advantage of mainframe reliability and security as well as its fast I/O technology and capacity to support thousands of users.

These announcements are a good sign that system management vendors are taking Linux in the enterprise seriously, says David Boyes, a Linux on mainframe user and engineer with Dimension Enterprises, a data center design and testing firm in Herndon, Va. "As more application vendors and enterprises embrace Linux, all the system management vendors will ultimately have to support the full range of their products - both clients and servers - on Linux. The announcements from CA and BMC are the beginning of that move."

One of the quickest ways to attract new users is to make Linux on the mainframe as easy as possible to work with. That's where a new IBM application called Virtual Image Facility (VIF) for Linux comes into play. The software sits on a mainframe and lets Linux-trained personnel install and run hundreds of copies of Linux on existing MVS installations.

The only other method of installing more than 15 copies of Linux is to employ the mainframe's VM operating system. With VM, one user installed 40,000 virtual Linux servers on one mainframe. With VIF for Linux, users can easily support hundreds of servers on a dedicated Linux CPU without needing VM. VIF for Linux costs $20,000 and will be available by October.

Ron Thielen, outgoing president of SHARE, says what is exciting about the moves by BMC and CA is that they are going to offer special pricing for their Linux applications and not charge the usual amount for mainframe-based software.

Specific details of pricing schemes were not available.

CA is introducing a dozen products for monitoring and managing mainframe Linux installations. Company executives say the TNG Unicenter network management platform will be tweaked to let customers monitor and manage S/390 Linux applications, storage and security.

Agents will reside on each virtual Linux server and will monitor, for example, a Linux Web application's status and end-user response times. These agents will then send the data to the Unicenter management console, which usually sits on a Windows NT server. IS staff can establish thresholds for Linux application performance. If thresholds are violated, IS can send an alert, or the Unicenter console can be programmed to make automatic responses, such as workload redistribution. There will be a number of modules from CA to manage specific applications, such as its MasterIT, which handles Web application management.

CA executives say the products will be available in the third and fourth quarters; pricing was unavailable.

BMC will also roll out software to let customers manage Linux applications on the mainframe, as well as do performance analysis and capacity planning. For the first time, the firm will offer an S/390 Linux Knowledge Module, or data collector product, which sits on a mainframe and looks at Linux server-related data, such as availability or CPU utilization. Via an agent, the Knowledge Module sends this information back to a Patrol console, which typically runs on an NT server. The S/390 Linux Knowledge Module is in beta-test form and will be offered free for a limited time to Patrol customers.

The firm will also tweak its Mainview Prediction 1.0 suite for Linux users.

Mainview Prediction sits on a mainframe and watches the performance of Linux applications to create a snapshot of data such as transaction rates. This data is put in an XML wrapper for presentation on any NT server or workstation for viewing. Mainview lets users plan capacity as well as get real-time information on S/390 Linux application performance. Mainframe personnel will predict how a certain application will affect the performance of any CPU, and based on that, shift workloads, BMC says.

Other tools being considered will automate certain functions, such as prioritizing IP traffic for key users during traffic spikes. Mainview Prediction is in beta-test form now, and pricing has not been determined.

Down the line, the firm is expected to announce additional Knowledge Modules for specific Linux applications, such as the Linux version of IBM's WebSphere 'Net application server and the Apache Web server.

IBM:; CA:; BMC: www.

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