Linuxcare Introduces New Software to Manage Linux on the Mainframe

Taking aim at the rapidly growing market for Linux on IBM zSeries and S/390 mainframes, Linuxcare this week unveiled software to provision, configure and update large-scale Linux deployments on mainframe systems.

The idea of consolidating workloads from large numbers of smaller servers onto mainframes running Linux has grabbed the attention IT managers since IBM introduced Linux on the mainframe in early 2001. Today, there are “probably around 150 data centers actually running Linux in production on mainframes, and quite a few more who are looking at it,” says John Phelps, Vice President and Research Director at Gartner Research.

Linuxcare’s product, called Levanta, can more than double the effectiveness of a system administrator, according to the company. Using it, a new instance of Linux can installed on a mainframe in as little as sixty seconds. That can significantly reduce administration costs, according to Linuxcare CEO Avery Lyford, since the fully-burdened annual cost for an experienced system administrator can approach $200,000 a year, particularly in expensive labor markets like New York City.

In fact, says Lyford, up to forty percent of the total cost of ownership of servers is the cost of administering them. Phelps agrees: “If you’re looking at server consolidation,” he says, “the ability to manage a large number of virtual machines will be one of the ways you’ll achieve cost savings.”

Levanta allows administrators to build templates for Linux virtual servers, so complete Linux instances, including both the operating system and application software such as database or Web servers, can be quickly deployed on a mainframe. That allows companies to capture and then reuse best practices in managing the systems, says Lyford.

In addition, Linux virtual servers can be managed as a group, so changes can be applied to multiple instances simultaneously. For example, database servers, Web servers, and email servers can be grouped together so that Linux kernel upgrades are performed on all instances at once, reducing the risk of inconsistent changes.

The product also includes three different interfaces: a CPCMS interface for mainframe administrators, a Unix script interface, and a graphical interface for administrators who are used to working with Microsoft Windows. “That cuts retraining costs, says Lyford. “We wanted to let people work with the system the way they’re used to working with it.”

The product is currently in beta test at mainframe shops at Verizon and other companies.

Levanta supports z/VM Version 4, releases 2 and 3, and the SuSE and Red Hat Linux distributions. Pricing begins at $150,000.