Linux Breathes New Life Into The Mainframe: Page 2

Posted January 15, 2002

Dan Orzech

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Software products targeting vertical niches are beginning to appear as well. Sanchez Computer Associates Inc., of Malvern, Pa., whose customer service and electronic banking software is used by financial industry heavyweights like American Express and BANK ONE, made its software available for the platform a few months ago.

"Not every application is available for mainframe Linux right now," says Mastrobattista, "but a good percentage of them are in the works. A lot of the independent software vendors are excited about Linux, and beginning to put resources toward porting things from Unix over to Linux."

Porting: "It can't be this easy"

Easing the process is the fact that the port appears to be fairly straightforward, at least for Unix applications. "When we took some Unix-based code and ported it to Linux on the Z-series, what we found was that it wasn't really a port," says Fred Johannessen, director of strategy for BMC's Linux initiative. "We just recompiled the thing, and it worked. We told ourselves, 'It can't be this easy,' but it really was that easy."

Other companies are not waiting for ISVs to port their products, but turning to open source software which is available for free. Newell Rubbermaid, a $6 billion a year housewares manufacturer based in Freeport, Ill., for example, is using Linux on its IBM S/390 mainframe to run an open source network monitoring program called Multi Router Traffic Grapher, or MRTG.

With some 44,000 employees globally, the firm's network links together company operations from Taiwan to Poland, says Paul Watkins, Newell's network analyst. The company was paying more than $6,000 each month to outsource the performance monitoring to an outside firm; now it uses spare cycles on its mainframe and MRTG to monitor the performance of thousands of ports on the company's Cisco routers, switches and other network devices.

Besides saving money on outsourcing costs, the application is allowing Newell to conduct the polling much more rapidly. Before, says Watkins, the company surveyed each device about once every half-hour, now, the mainframe's greater horsepower allows Newell to do it every ten minutes, and Watkins is aiming for near real-time monitoring. The company has just installed VM on the mainframe, and is investigating running other applications on the Linux partition.

"People said the mainframe was dead," says Giga's Mastrobattista, "but there's an estimated $1.3 trillion to $1.5 trillion worth of applications running on them. Those things just aren't going away. And today it's Linux which is really capturing the mindshare of people dealing with mainframes."

Dan Orzech is a Philadelphia-based writer specializing in technology. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and many computer industry publications.

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