More bang, fewer buddies

IBM Corp. is trying to sell its mainframe Linux solution on total cost of ownership, and a key part of that formula is the need for fewer employees to keep the powerful machines running.

Add the maintenance and floor-space savings from consolidating hundreds of servers into one machine to the mainframe's traditional quality-of-service and robust recovery environment, plus the tight integration that those Linux applications have with mainframe back-end applications, and Peter McCaffrey, director of product marketing in IBM's eServer division, thinks the case is proven.

Up to 70 percent of mainframe Linux's total savings can come from reduced staffing, said John Phelps, a vice president and research director at Gartner Inc., because the maintenance employees and network administrators needed to manage large numbers of servers would no longer be required.

On the other hand, said Jack O'Brien, manager of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Linux Business Office, there are few circumstances when any organization would need to run Linux applications on a mainframe. In the meantime, "they'll need [current mainframe] experts and a list of other things" just to maintain that environment.

Potential users of mainframe Linux do have to look at their requirements, said Philip Dawson, program director for server infrastructure strategies at META Group Inc. If you are thinking of consolidating 10 servers into the one mainframe processor, "you don't gain any benefit from that level of participation," he said.

IBM officials say a minimum consolidation of 20 servers is necessary before an organization will see any return on its investment.

In the end, however, the competition among operating systems is probably more important than that among hardware platforms. Dawson believes the core development platforms in five years will be Microsoft Corp. Windows at the low end and Linux at the high end. And manufacturers of Unix hardware "will have to accommodate themselves to that."

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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