IBM Moves Linux Mainframes to the Center of the Grid

Key software for grid computing has been ported to Linux on the zSeries mainframe, according to an announcement this week from IBM and Linux distributor SuSE, which supplies the version of Linux most commonly found on mainframes.

The software includes the popular open source Globus Toolkit and programs from two commercial grid vendors, Toronto’s Platform Computing and New York City-based DataSynapse.

Platform Computing now has three of its products available for Linux on the mainframe. These include Platform LSF, which provides on-demand access to an organization’s global compute resources and balances workloads; Platform JobScheduler, a software solution that accelerates batch processing by grid-enabling silos of applications, jobs and process flows across distributed computing clusters; and Platform Multicluster, which allows enterprises to create a single cohesive computing environment across geographies.

DataSynapse announced availability of its LiveCluster 3G for Linux on the zSeries. Livecluster is designed to solve compute- and data-intensive bottlenecks and scalability constraints by harnessing of servers, clusters and desktops anywhere on a network. LiveCluster allows applications running on zSeries systems to participate in the LiveCluster workload prioritization environment.

The adoption of mainframes for grid computing is still in the early stages, according to Jim Goethals, IBM’s zSeries networking and grid manager. A number of IBM customers, including a large insurance company and a major financial services firm, are conducting proof of concept tests, he says.

So far, however, the only IBM customer publically using a mainframe for grid computing is the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, which recently bought a Linux only z800 mainframe for a grid computing research project.

Grid in a box

The mainframe, with its z/VM virtual machine software, offers some unique opportunities for companies interested in exploring grid computing, Goethals says.

“One of the traditional uses of z/VM is for development and test,” he says. “With z/VM, you can set up multiple virtual nodes, so you can actually prototype whole grids within the zSeries itself. It’s a sort of grid in a box. You can do all your application prototyping within the zSeries, and then deploy it on whatever combination of machines you want.”

In January, IBM said it was providing Grid offerings tailored to specific vertical markets, including life sciences, the automotive and aerospace industries, government and financial institutions.