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Grab A Piece Of Big Blue's Big Iron 138

Alowishus writes: "IBM is going to make one of its high-end zServer mainframes available for free to the public for development and testing of Linux applications. It has 10 CPUs and 2.1TB of storage, and will offer TurboLinux or SuSE distributions set up as virtual servers. It's expected to support about 1,000 simultaneous users." However, hold your horses just a bit: Registration is not yet open, the accounts are good only for a limited time, and the site lists other conditions details, though none sound onerous. Among other things, "once a user is registered and approved to access a LCDS system, a user is required to have direct Internet connection, via a Telnet and SSH client." Though there have been other free sandbox accounts, having an account on an S/390 would be sweet, eh?
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Grab A Piece Of Big Blue's Big Iron

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Our testing showed the the MHz rating on each CPU was roughly equivalent to the MHz rating of the PCs. We ran some tests, and had IBM try to optimize, and they responded with some charts.

    In very general terms, context switching a few number of apps is faster on Intel, but it doesn't scale past 100 very well. Context switching on a 390 appeared to scale way past 1000 linearly.

    Our main frame has 10 400Mz CPUs. Our MSSQL server has 8 800 Mz CPUs. So, out DB server is faster in raw computational power than the mainframe, but it can really only run one app at a time well. My desktop (800 Mz) ran single threaded apps twice as fast as the mainframe.

    A technical reason for this behavior is that the L1 cache on the mainframe is shared across all CPUs, but it is private to each PC CPU. This way, as processes migrate from CPU to CPU, they don't have to carry all the baggage of reloading the L1 cache.

    Of course, IO on the main frame rocks, but myself being trained in the ways of the PC tend to design applications for the PC. To design efficiently for the 390 will take a different mindset. The results of our research were that some apps belong on the mainframe and should be designed for the mainframe, some for the PC, and don't plan on migrating from one platform to the other without redesigning the app to take advantage of local platform advatages.

    I wasn't allow to keep any of IBM's docs from this meeting, and come to think of it, I may need to kill you all now.

    Bob in Seattle
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2001 @12:15AM (#203969)
    There are two ways to look at it. One is that there are huge costs associated with any choice of operating system: developing and supporting millions of lines of utility software; training everybody who operates the machine; and so on. To be sure, there are also costs with having a single OS scale from cheap machines to big iron servers.

    I think this is IBM's argument: Linux and Apache have become de facto multi-vendor marketplace standards. It's more effective to adopt and adapt this giant body of work than it is to bear all the costs of a specialized big-iron operating system and web server.

    From the Free Software point of view: a quick empirical view of the world shows that corps and govs want big iron, and want some software to run on it. I believe that the world is a better place when all software is available under some kind of open license, not just the bitty box software that you care about. What if I wanna teach myself how big servers run 1000 separate system images? I start reading the arch/s390 directory in the linux kernel source. Or I read a book by a teacher who has access to arch/s390 source and can use that knowledge to teach me.

    Computer programming is more than those 10-week class projects in undergrad school. We have millions of lines of "prior art". The GPL license and the BSD license are the most effective ways on the planet to make that prior art as accessible as the primary literature in disciplines like chemistry. That's important if big-iron programming is going to be an open competitive field, not limited to employee/serfs operating under NDA's. (Insert return-of-medieval-guilds rant here).

    (Maybe you think the world would be a better place if nobody had a computer that big. I think that would be a Luddite opinion. The fact is, lots of organizations already do, and I'm happier if they are running Linux rather than a closed-source OS like AIX or Solaris).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2001 @12:31AM (#203970)
    What will you need if you want to try Windows out? A Beowulf of Crays?

    No, just those sunglasses that block out harmful blue light..

  • No no, some people do miss a thing here..

    What IBM will give you is an ENTIRE VIRTUAL MACHINE! - not just a very limited user account - but a full Linux virtual machine - with /root /usr, 128MB RAM, disk space etc..

    On Compaq machine you just get an account - you cannot go to /usr/local and start installing/erasing stuff, you'll have to reconsider other users when you running you wild intense-use-of-processor app..

  • I'm almost scared that they may just use this as a way to collect information about up-and-coming projects.

    Couldn't you simply run it on CryptFS? Maybe it wouldn't stop them from stealing any ideas but it would slow them down. Besides, it would be an interesting test of security on a virtual machine.

  • From what I understand, linux running on these mainframes is just like linux on your desktop, except that there are several copies running at once.

    So, using this, I just like using any other linux machine, and it closely resembles a typical ppc machine. Why do you need an account on a machine like this that's shared with 1000 other users if you can just see if your app compiles on a ppc machine.

    They don't actually say if ibm is going to offer anything special. The big appeal with using a machine like this is the high speed internal networking, being able to run a firewall, 5 web servers, 4 app servers, and 2 databases, all on the same machine, but under different operating systems, or use it for mass virtual computer hosting. I don't think that's going to happen with a free acount.

    So what's so special about this?
  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2001 @07:06AM (#203974) Homepage Journal

    I uploaded some homebrew benchmarking software to it. The memory bandwidth seems amazing. Compared to a reasonably high-end Intel server, it has about 10x the memory bandwidth. Either that, or lots and lots of L2 cache. But I'm sure I wasn't the only one on the system, and the tests consistently showed almost 10x the throughput of Intel.

    The test was simple: take a range of memory of X megs, and write a random char to it. Time how many can be done in a quarter of a second, extrapolate MB/s from that. I get almost the same numbers if I use 10MB chunks as I do to 1MB chunks. Good shit here.

    Single CPU performance isn't much different, but that wasn't the point. The systems could also be configured to give my account access to multiple processors.

    If I started my own hosting company, I think I'd definitely use one of these babies.

  • Not likely. would lock up YOUR virtual machine. And it would make infinte directories on YOUR virtual machine/disk. But that is about it.

    These things are amazing. I played on one in college a lot (well, a 3090). It was running 3 copies of McGills MUSIC system, VM/CMS and a few other things. One MUSIC system would be dirt slow cause it had a ton of students on it taxing the virtual system. Everything else one the 3090 ran just fine.

    This is not the same as running multiple processes on a PC where the performance of one affects that of another. This is akin to 300 machines sitting side by side.
  • Here's some quick facts and info for the people who are curious.
    • You get a complete system image running (in my case) SUSE, complete with all the normal apps and packages (Apache, compilers, MySQL, Perl, etc) and some special IBM packages and things they provide.
    • The engineering staff has been quick to respond, and they're obviously enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
    • There's a mailing list setup now, but they expect that to grow a lot when the public registration opens.
    You can enable or disable services, reboot the machine, etc. Anyone who's used a Linux box will be very comfortable, and the only 'indication' of being a virtual machine I've had so far (besides the unusual dmesg output, since it is after all a completely different architecture from most peoples' experience on a PC, PowerPC, Sun, or Alpha) was related to the system clock (things like 'hwclock --systohc' don't work, since you can't munge the main system's clock) and needing a bit more drive space since a lot of the 'generic' stuff is mounted read-only (which has been fixed as they reworked the images). If you've watched the page at nux/lcds/ []you've prolly seen most of this, as they keep putting up little blurbs in red text at the bottom of the page.
    I've seen some posts wondering what IBM's ulterior motives are, and I think everyone knows they want to sell as many servers as possible, and we also know they're here to sell the high-margin ones, as well. But that doesn't mean the machines aren't an excellent resource; I work for a paycheck, too, but I feel pretty good about the level of service I provide to my employers, and I think the same applies here to IBM. You don't make a billion dollar investment in something for charities sake, but you also don't do it if you don't intend to back it up with some quality products.
  • The main benefit of SSH is that it sends everything encrypted. If you need to log in and administer your corporate web site there really isn't much choice lest someone tap your line and guble your root password.

    However this box is for public access. In real life the users won't have anything even remotely confidential on it. Nothing at least that isn't also available by CVS from public servers (like

    Sure telnet may be a bad habit but it isn't a sin.

    BTW: This report talks about the free mainframe in a different light from all the others. Before this all you herd of was people getting this box to fine tune mainframe ports of Linux software. Sure you let reporters run lynx and write about it but the main tool on this box is GCC.
  • by simpleguy ( 5686 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2001 @04:05AM (#203978) Homepage nux/lcds/index.html

    9672 G6 Model ZX7 (10 way processor)


    Shark 2105-F20 (2.1 terabytes)

    VM PRF
    C Runtime Library
    REXX Compiler and Library
    VM TCPIP (FL32A with SSL support)
    Tivoli Storage Manager Version 4.1
    VM TCPIP NFS feature

    (No clue what most of the above mean)
  • What makes you think the files from a previous user would be there or that you could even access them ? If it is one thing the Big Iron machine have down it is SECURITY.
  • I doubt it. They are using either LARGE SCALE DASD, 3390 or some such thing. RAID is CHEAP, and that is one thing they don't use...
  • is called a JES3 comples, we run one with 8 local systems each is an s/390 or z series machine. is a MONSTER batch processing environment. CICS/IMS/DB2 etc....
  • That's the point this isn't your computer...IT IS A RACF controlled mainframe....There is a REASON there has NEVER been a mainframe VIRUS, beyond the fact that no script kiddie has one :)
  • You can't compare an ancient mainframe to a modern workstation. Why not look at the specs of what's available today? zSeries (the new name for s390) run on pretty damn fast copper-wire PPC CPU's. I seem to recall 800MHz as the figure, and since they're RISC you can add a fudge factor when comparing them with the latest Intel - so they don't have quite the straight-line speed, but they're close. On the other hand, your biggest Intel box is 4-way, while the zSeries has up to 20 CPUs (16 for SMP, plus 4 that can be dedicated to handling I/O).

    The minimum memory you can stick in a zSeries is 1 gigabyte. The maximum is 64 gigabytes.

    Storage throughput has similarly increased since your employer purchased their dinosaur, I just couldn't find figures for what they are now.

    Charles Miller

  • by Y2K is bogus ( 7647 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @11:52PM (#203984)
    I can see it now, the ultimate platform for playing CoreWars.

    Better start writing your bots now!
  • If people are doing something even vaguely useful on this system (chiefly porting/testing/debugging software), IBM would almost certainly leave their account open as long as they wanted one.

    For instance, when the <plug>GnuCash []</plug>developers get the RPC-enabled, PostGres-driven backend fully up to speed (it works, but it's not production-use material yet) it'd be a blast to port it to this architecture. If we did, do you really think IBM would cut off access?

    Go you big red fire engine!

  • Why code in C when I can code in COBOL

    OS/390 has a very high quality C compiler. I've been using it for the last two years :)

  • Stick with it! I'm doing the same as you right out of college and having a blast. Mainframes aren't going anywhere (sales are up 40% last I heard) and most of the systems programmers are close to retiring. We are going to be in high demand, my friend :)

  • Actually I would be suprised of OS/390 were running anywhere on that machine. Most likely it's running VIF (Virtual Imagining Facility, a stripped down version of the old VM) to control the linux images.

  • Thanks you the link, you are quite correct.

    I'm a bit suprised they are not using this oppertunity to show off the new VIF product.

  • by robinjo ( 15698 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2001 @12:59AM (#203990)

    Great! Let's all just shout foul to IBM. How dare they give access to a computer for free? Bad bad IBM! It should be GPL! No! They should also give free T-shirts!

    SourceForge is a great contribution but don't use it to put down other gifts. That's greed.

  • Yes, but don't forget that this is a setup which is running *virtual* Linux images on *one* physical machine. The previous examples are one OS per physical machine.

    I suspect that one of the aims here is to get loads of people doing all sorts of weird things, perhaps deliberately trying to crash their Linux image (virtual machine), without having any effect at all on other Linux images running.

  • Nah, they wouldn'd do anything like that. IBM was never cheap or petty. It's more like tha old mainframes where the customer wants to try out a few tests before the expensive new mainframe comes in. I'm sure that IBM is very accustomed to being somewhat privy to customer information that stays with the customer.
  • Err...It's not exactly a machine shared with other users, but a virutal machine that you can go crazy with. Install what you want into /usr/local, delete fun files from /boot. Do other silly stuff. It's a free account alright, the username just happens to be root!.
  • No, you wouldn't get a zSeries for personal use, but there are several ISP/co-los who have already started down this path - one box, central administration, easy storage addition, the best reliability available, and you can give each person a separate image, so they can do whatever they want application wise. If they bork something up, the full image can be reloaded in mere seconds. I/O bandwidth is massive, fairness can be enforced between partitions... and total square feet used and power consumed are way down from having many separate boxes.

    This is not your father's S/390 ;-)
  • Well, that copy of Linux would shut down, and that would be about it... There's no rule against the O/S in a given VM stopping. It could be easily restarted, but none of that would affect anyone else on any othre Linux partition - that's the beauty of the whole thing.
  • You can only use up the processor time that is allocated to your partition. The other users wouldn't even notice the difference if you used 100% of your CPU allocation. The whole VM can be admin'd quite closely, so it isn't hard to keep things from getting out of hand if you set things up properly from the start.
  • Right, it is essentially a PC server on a PCI card, with access to all of the I/O advantages that goes along with being in an AS. Provides nice backup and central administration capabilities, and you can reload the Windows image quickly if your app hoses things up, and still have all of your user data nicely separate.

    Linux is running on the mainframe as much as OS/390 or z/OS runs on the mainframe... everyone runs on top of a VM on those machines.


  • Ask yourself why IBM would do something like this. For the sake of the Linux community? Hardly. They get their system tested for free, just like MS wishes to get people to try and crack (test) their OS in the dumb challenges.

    Once this is tested, imagine the potential it can have at an ISP. No more snotty restricted accounts, they just boot another VM, and you've got a full blown Linux server, ready to host your apps. It's money in the making.

  • 90% of the CPU will be consumed between the first 100 people who jumped on to add some Big Iron to their DNET and SETI scores.
  • We don't like Microsoft, but we (in general) like IBM, so we'll do IBM a few favours if it benefits us too.
  • What about Progeny []? It's got a flashy GUI and it's Debian-based-and-compatible.
  • Setting up a set of VMs inside the VM would be the really fun part of having this whole system.
  • We have email space, we have OS access, we have Application Service Providers, how about database access?

    It would be nice if database developers could get access to database space on the latest from a database company, thus helping the database company get the latest features to be used by developers. I do work for Oracle so I would hope Oracle would pick up this idea first.

  • There are other exploits possible, like infinte recursion programs somebody could use to lock up a system. or that nasty program that makes infinite subdirectories. Since it's multiple processors and OSes, what would happen?

  • If it's images, could I wipe out mmy image and install FreeBSD? Oh, wait, can you do that thru SSH?

  • Lets say for instance that some user tries to make havoc with the system. Now they already tried rm- rf / but that only screwed himself, not the other users. Lets say this person comes back with a new account.

    What could they do to the other users? Run an infinite recursion program as root? Tie up the processors? Since this is a multi-user and multi-processor OS, what would happen if somebody did that? Could an IBM staff get in there and terminate the process/OS/account?

  • What if a user as root types in shutdown NOW ?

    What will you get? an error, or if you're lucky, many pissed off users?

  • by joq ( 63625 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2001 @12:00AM (#204008) Homepage Journal

    This is great marketing for both IBM, and Linux. First off I think this is more of a marketing tactic than IBM trying to be helpful to any developer. By having thousands of developers do their thing on the machine, they could always turn around and pimp the results as both an IBM, and joint Linux effort which is pretty cool for Linux marketing...

    However on the flip side of the coin, I hope the developers rush to fill these slots as opposed to some troll who's going to use those accounts for silly shit like h4x0rf00.c programs they wanna throw up, or uneccessary other shit...

    Let's kill some Americans and blame Cuba []
  • PW2 said:
    > Now I can finally run vi at a decent speed.

    Have you ever tried running vi locally instead of remotely?
    Over a 9600 bps line (like those used on some old terminals) it really sucks, I agree.
    But if you download some vi clone [] and run it on your computer...

  • Anyone want to venture a guess? I bet nobody is gonna be able to suck up that 2.1TB of disk space.
    I think "cp /dev/random ~/bigfile" should do it...
  • > Well, they write that they expect people to do some development on the mainframe under Linux. I don't know how other developers, but I am certainly not going to do some work, when I am sure that after x days I won't even have ability to use it.

    Well, any developer worth their salt knows how to set up a hotmail account, and use that to re-apply for another period.

  • ... a cluster of thousands of well connected DeCSS []/OT VII []/<insert your favorite censored item> mirrors? Or will they firewall off HTML access to those virtual linux boxen? Wouldn't it be ironic if mirrors of this stuff [] turned up as well? IBM may have unwittingly set up a giant community blackboard [] here...
  • Think about it. Nobody cares whether this runs on an IBM mainframe, or on a Beowulf clusters of gameboys. However, this thing sits right in the center of IBM's Noc, and is thus probably very well connected. Think Gigabit connections directly to the important backbone providers... If you have something interesting to publish, you put it at that place. You don't care about the OS, nor the hardware: you use it solely for its outstanding connectivity!
  • > Of course its cool running it on a mainframe, but if the OS works well, you'll never notice where you are anyway :)

    AFAIK, it does not run an x86 emulation. It's a port to the mainframe's processor, just like there are ports to the Alpha, the PowerPC, the Sparc, etc. Virtualization only goes as far as is needed to compartimentalize the mainframe into zillions of server, it does not emulate the processor.

    So you would only have source compatibility, and no binary compatibility, and thus it does make sense to test your software there, in order to see whether it ports allright to this architecture.

  • What a waste to spend resources on opening an S/390 considering what they could be used for.

    What about taking 10% of that BILLION and earmarking it to support open source developers??

    Where were they when Eazel tanked? What about the folks at SourceXchange? Are they doing anything more than thinking about marketing, pr facetime, and beating their own products to death?

    I'd much rather see some of that money go to supporting hookup of an IBM microdrive to the Agenda, or a zillion other things, than this.

    IBM should earmark 0.05% of their budget (that's still half a million bucks right?) to - guess what - pay great open source based developers and designers to build a site that would try to get feedback from the Linux community, including developers, users, and purchasers, as to what sort of things we'd like to see. It might even save them some marketing money. IBM's done some good things but this is not the top priority if they are serious about spending that money on open source.

    If they believe Linux gives them value for the money, then they ought to be willing to put money down to get high quality engineering and design talent to work on projects which IBM could share with the open source community and continue to improve Linux.

    One really cool thing they could do is endow a chair (or 10 or 20) like the year off from school which Perl mage Damian Conway received from the community.
  • Can someone quickly build me a S/390 version of Seti@Home ?
  • the only people who use Linux because it's inexpensive are the cheap bastards here on slashdot who expect everything for free. the rest of use use it because it can be easily ported, doesn't lock you into one vendor, and provides a better starting point than developing something in-house.

    - j

  • isn't that one of the cool things about linux, that you don't NEED an expensive machine to run it? sure, for deploying something that demands a lot of power, one of these expensive servers would be great, but why put 1000 developers on it? i'm sure anyone with the skills to develop a linux application has access to some old pc to run it on (and you need SOME box in front of you in order to ssh to ibm's server anyway).

    this just sounds like marketing hype, and not nearly as cool hype as the spraypainting thing...
  • Ah.
    I missed that bit :-)
  • by RussGarrett ( 90459 ) <(ku.oc.tterrag) (ta) (ssur)> on Wednesday May 23, 2001 @12:19AM (#204020) Homepage
    But what might seem like a grand experiment is also a shrewd marketing move by IBM. None of IBM's server competitors--such as Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard or Compaq Computer--has offered similar programs.

    ZDnet seem to be avoiding the fact that Compaq have their huge TestDrive [] program. They let anybody (currently)access:

    Beowulf Cluster on AlphaServers
    Caldera OpenLinux on ProLiants
    Tru64 on various AlphaServers
    TruCluster server on several AlphaServers
    OpenVMS on AlphaServer
    Debian on AlphaServer
    Debian on ProLiant
    FreeBSD on AlphaServer
    FreeBSD on ProLiant
    Kondara Linux 2000 on AlphaServer
    Kondara Linux 2000 on ProLiant
    Linux64 on Blazer Itanium
    Mandrake on Proliant
    NetBSD on on AlphaServer
    RedHat on many ProLiants
    RedHat on even more AlphaServers
    SuSe on ProLiants
    SuSo on AlphaServers
    TurboLinux on ProLiant

    Plus numerous databases...
    Lots of toys... all for free...
  • This will be abused just like MIT's unix boxes were in the early 90's when they left the guest password open to everyone. a rm -rf / by wing of MOD(I hate those bastards) ruined that for everyone - no more guest account afterthat.
  • there's only 2 questions i have. when and where? i mean, come on, where else are you gonna be able to use this sort of technlology? even if i had the money to buy a 390, i wouldn't. well, for personal use at least. is it gonna be a link on the zseries page? i'm gonna sign up asap, and gonna see what i can build on it. i'm gonna try and build quakeforge on it. i won't be able to play it, unless i export the display, which is useless unless i'm on a lan with it, which i won't be. my only gripe is that redhat won't be offered. oh well, them's the breaks. i think it would look good on a resume. or something...
  • This seems a wondereful idea to me. Compaq had the same thing going a while back but they offered it as a "Test Drive a Compaq Unix server" I was involved Unix college courses then, and it was a bonus to be able to complete assignments in a Unix environment. IBM is pushing Linux at a segment of the market who are probably interested, but have not had or taken the chance to test a Linux server. And its good business sense for IBM too, being involved in the shared development of an operating system which was and is being developed by probably some of the best software engineers on the planet. A great business opportunity for the progressive organization that IBM is.
    My two bits *grin*
  • having an account on an S/390 would be sweet, eh?

    I've had an account on an S/390 for the past year and a half. Trust me, they are slow machines. On a good day, a brand new, 16 processor S/390 is a 120 MIPS machine. Each individual processor is only 7.5 MIPS. That's right, folks, 7.5. The last time Intel debuted a 7.5 MIPS processor was the mid-80's. Most mainframes don't have more than 16 MB of RAM, and while they can store TB's of info, what they don't tell you is that the throughput on a 3380 diskpack is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 - 3 MB/s. Consider the average PC:

    • 1 GHz processor - 2,000 MIPS; 265 times faster than a mainframe processor; about 17 times faster than the whole mainframe!
    • 256 MB of RAM - 16 times more RAM than most mainframes.
    • 20 GB HD - granted, not much, but with a 33MB/s xfr rate, it's at least 10 times faster than a mainframe
    While mainframes are good for data archiving (the average mainframe experiences less downtime in its entire 20 year lifecycle than most PC's do in a month), they are simply too slow for doing the kind of processing that most users expect to do with a UNIX or LINUX system. I work in a mainframe shop, where the dominant language is Assembler. We can't use any other language, because the machine is just too slow to keep up with it. Allowing users to log on is fine, but unless you have the need to index enourmous amounts of data, or have data around for the next 20 years, mainframe computing makes no sense. They are simply to slow to do any real work. Almost every PC could do the computation (or compilation, parsing, etc...) an order of magnitude faster than a mainframe, and network latency only slows things down further.
  • by aralin ( 107264 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @11:58PM (#204025)
    Well, they write that they expect people to do some development on the mainframe under Linux. I don't know how other developers, but I am certainly not going to do some work, when I am sure that after x days I won't even have ability to use it.

    I agree that the limited time is good for the 'testing' users who just want to know how it feels, but I doubt they will appeal to someone who would like to do a serious work with such conditions.

  • I mean seriously, if I'm going to work on an S/390 system, I want to play with OS/390 and VM or something of that nature. Why code in C when I can code in COBOL ;)

    Actually I think this is pretty cool, I wouldn't mind running some of my code on these systems, especially anything math intensive is going to run blazing fast....

    Are they going to offer some Database space too on DB2, or am I going to have to run MySQL???
  • Actually that's not a whole lot, EMC has some nice big fat Symmetrix boxen that can go up to 4-6 TB and work off a couple Fibre-Channel cards. We're runnning 3TB where I work, and connectivity is a breeze :)
  • No, it does not resemble a PPC machine. First off, the S/390 architecture is not a PPC architecture.
    And there are differences in the capabilties that are there, the devices, etc.
    Unfortunately, they are giving us only a Linux login... and I guess its actually root on your own Linux VM. This is cool, but I would want to have my own VM session so I could then create my own Linux VMs. Ah well...
    -Former Linux/VM Developer
  • As far as I know, the danger of something like that happening in this case is extremely small. You see, the mainframe runs a large number of system images at once. Each of those images is like a separate box. They share hardware resources, but they're separated at a very low (kernel) level. That means, exploits in applications are no danger to the other users.
  • ZDnet seem to be avoiding the fact that Compaq have their huge TestDrive program. They let anybody (currently)access:

    That's the problem with the compaq TestDrive system- a LOT of people are using these machines, and it gets so bogged down that it's hard to tell how the machine actually handles what you're doing, and it makes productivity on the machines terrible.

    Hopefully IBM will limit the amount of accounts per physical machine so that this doesn't happen. I'd love to play around on a nice high-end machine that doesn't tend to crawl due to the many many other users currently trying to use it..

  • And more crap TV ads!
  • I used to work at IBM in poughkeepsie where we developed the S/390 machines. I was in a test group, and one of the things we used to do was play a variation of CoreWars on the machines. I had a 10 byte program that would kick ass.

  • You know, I know that IBM is going to donate/spend $1 billion this year on Linux and open source, and this is clearly part of the whole plan. And while I would be the very last to look a "gift horse in the mouth" so to speak, wouldn't it be even more super if they dumped some money into these ailing open source projects or hired developers a.k.a. VA Linux?
  • the special thing is having multiple virtual machines. Each machine is completely isolated from the other machine. As a user you 'virtually' own the whole box. Allocating resources to virtual machines is done on a very low level and highly optimized. Lots of code is a microcode. So - for instance you can host say a 1000 servers, yet it is really a single box. Incidently VM has been around for a long long time (probably since mid 70th). Once you have a virtual machine you can boot (IPL) any operating system of your choice, not necessarily Linux. When I was studying at school, one of the courses I took was 'Operating system design and implementation'. The end result was a complete operating system, with bootstrap, program loader, simple I/O drivers, job scheduler. We used VM to boot and test our code. That was my very first exposure to VM.
  • As far as I can see this is similar to the system the NSA wants to develop to make computers with multiple clearance levels on the same system. Each VM is totally independent of the others and of the master system. When a VM is created it gets X amount of CPU time, storage, and RAM. It CANNOT violate these restrictions, only the underlying OS can make a change in the indvidual VM's and you get no access to that. In the case of the NSA they want to use it to make the same computer act like a locked down TS cleared box and a public unclassified box. The two VM's have no idea that each other exist, and the underlying system has no access to the data of the VMs. This probably works the same way only on a much larger scale.

  • Though with 10 (central) processors math intensive code will probably be pretty good, Big Iron really kicks at anything I/O intensive.

  • by pallotta ( 143747 ) < minus distro> on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @11:59PM (#204037)
    OK, now there's a 10-CPU box for "an opportunity for people who haven't used Linux to...get to try it out".

    What will you need if you want to try Windows out? A Beowulf of Crays?

  • Please don't post news like this... I work on a S/390 administering WebSphere and USS, and I'm seriously considering bailing to do an AIX job, for viability reasons. Don't tell me Z/OS390 is becoming fashionable. I'm already wishy-washy. Aaron
  • Can anyone explain (OK, I'm ignorant!) what is happening under the covers here? Is this mainframe partitioned in hardware terms, with x number of Linux instances actually controlling its resources? Or is it that x number of Linux instances are running in software partitions under the control of OS/390 or VM or ...? If it's the latter it seems far less exciting to me.

  • Thanks for a quick answer. I guess it _is_ the latter, then. You're right, VM is cool, but as I thought, it's not exactly Linux running "on" a mainframe, is it? Any more than you can run Windows NT "on" an AS/400 (or i-series!). You actually run it on an Intel CPU which is integrated into the AS/400's disk and I/O need to dig a bit to find that out, the sales reptiles have no clue. Still if it helps to run good apps I suppose only techie purists will care. And perhaps only techie IBM purists at that.

  • Actually, it's running a full function VM, probably the latest release...all the software is described on the website: x/lcds []
  • This isn't the only IBM contribution. Look in the latest glibc source at the accurate math routines, for at least one other... sysdeps/ieee754/dbl-64/?cvsroot=glibc []
  • Ask yourself why IBM would do something like this. For the sake of the Linux community? Hardly.

    Obviously you're not on the mailing list where the setup for this system was discussed. You've got it all wrong - the reason is exactly to do something good for the Linux community. The idea was proposed by a non-IBMer in the Linux/390 community, and nursed along by a crew of folks outside and inside IBM, more than a few at the lowest levels.

    This isn't one of those "the suits want to look good" ideas.

  • You can think of this as your own colo system if you like - you get root access. The overall system is using IBM's z/VM operating system to carve the system up into thousands of smaller systems, and to manage their interactions. Think "VMWare", but better - they get the idea from IBM. z/VM and its precursors have been doing this since 1967 - they've had time to work out the kinks.
  • SGI Origin 3X00 series. Up to 512 MIPS R14000/500 CPUs, 1 TB RAM. ~700 GB/sec system bandwidth. Add as many PCI or XIO expansion chassis as you desire. (VME can be added via XIO). Add up to 16 "G-Brick" Onyx 3000 / InfiniteReality 3 graphics subsystems. Add up to 36 individual "snowball" DM3 dual channel SD/HD digital video cards for editing HDTV. Add up to 768 SCSI and/or Fibre Channel XIO cards.

    Be sure to win the lottery. Err... Be sure to win several lotteries.

    No Linux yet, just IRIX + some Cray libraries (SCSL). Can be partitioned if you want to run different instances of IRIX. Can also be clustered via ethernet, gigE, HiPPI, or GSN (800 MegaBytes/sec HiPPI derrivative).
  • I hate to do it, but I have to wonder what IBM's *real* intentions are. Also, just who will get accounts on this machine? The big names: Torvalds, Cox, ESR, RMS? Friends/customers of IBM? The real coders (Apache members, GNOME members, etc)?

    I'm almost scared that they may just use this as a way to collect information about up-and-coming projects. Even if I'm working on a GPL'ed project, I'm somewhat weary of compiling and running it on a machine owned by someone else. One day it may be my app... the next it could be "IBM MEGA COMMERCIAL APP". Maybe not the code, but perhaps the idea. I can't compete with IBM when it comes to resources.

    Buyer Beware.
  • Are you 5 years old? Grow up already. {buhahuh he said load, then he said tool}

  • Yep, it's not really useful for setting up a test environment if it's removed after X days. (Unless X is big :)

    What i dont really get though, is what all the fuzz is about. All they are providing is a common Linux installation. (Sure, its great when it's free). But downloading the ISO and install on that P-200 in your closet, and you have the same box but without time limitation.

    Of course its cool running it on a mainframe, but if the OS works well, you'll never notice where you are anyway :)

  • One word: seti@home

  • Many years ago, Digital [] did this with their Alphas [] when they first came out around 1990. They did everything they could to bring attention to these fast guys, including putting out a number of white papers detailing its architecture and core design. Somehow they still could not break the Intel barrier despite their speed.

    They gave logins to anyone who asked for one in order to see what could be done with the systems. They were always overloaded and it seemed like there was great interest in the machines, but eventually $$$ and non-native Intel compatibility limited them. Good luck to IBM.

  • - Trolling for FP and goatsex posts was never so fast.

    -Running vhosts for IRC bots (

    -setting up an ftp server to share your pr0n collection

    -streaming audiocast that all your IRC buddies will listen to.

    -what the heck, you could even set up your own IRC server and attempt a link to Dalnet.

    Now don't say you can't figure out any real uses.

  • A Beowulf cluster of these would be quite silly. The main selling point of the z900 is that it is massively partitionable. It puts the Compaq/Digital GS320 and Sun Enterprise 10000 to shame. If you're running just one application or computation, partitioning doesn't serve a purpose.

    The z900 is designed for insane availability (It's relative, the G3, runs the US air traffic control system). Features, such as partitioning and the impressive Dynamic CPU sparing ensure that the computer is always running at full capacity. These features are not necessary for scientific clusters and defeat the purpose of Beowulf's impressive price/performance ratio.
  • Please read the text carefully. IBM makes this available for developers to port and test their software on IBM mainframes + Linux combination. This will reduce bugs for IBM and they can sell more of these machines especially to busineeses. It looks like having the ability to run linux on this machines is very valuable for businesses and IBM want more software to be compatible with their machines.
  • Will this be like open bsd's jail? Or will you be able to use it like its your own colo system? What potential do most slashdoters have for this?

    The Lottery:
  • Sure it would be hard to fill it up via the net, but it wouldnt take long to generate a large file *on* the system.

    The Lottery:
  • by ConsumedByTV ( 243497 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2001 @12:15AM (#204071) Homepage
    This is a great oportunity for people that want expernce with a mainframe, one thing that linux runs well on. Its a learning experence much akin to the the hacker ethic, but it is also a blatint plug for ibm.

    The Lottery:
  • by ConsumedByTV ( 243497 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2001 @12:18AM (#204072) Homepage
    One thing I was thinking is that IBM might decide to do the MSN/hotmail thing and make all things transmitted accross the mainframe its property. I doubt they would do it, but this is IBM, they havent lost the stigma they earned in the past.

    The Lottery:
  • It is Marketing, but it isn't so much hype. IBM's motivation is increase awareness of it's Mainframes as Web/App serving powehouses. Instead of 5 racks worth of 2U servers (which means something will go wrong with at least one machine each day/week), a hosting company can buy one of these zSeries and get the same power, with decades worth of reliability behind it.

    Just be happy they don't make you connect via TN3270 ;)

  • Are you trolling? At that point, IBM would be investing in possibly competing firms which do not necessarily even have a snowball's chance in hell of being successful. And it would be showing favoritism to an outside group of developers. Should they also give money to RedHat? Would SourceXchange survived (if they indeed are dead) if it had some IBM money propping up their carcass? There is still some Darwinism inherent in the Open-source model.

    IBM should earmark 0.05% of their budget (that's still half a million bucks right?) to - guess what - pay great open source based developers and designers to build a site that would try to get feedback from the Linux community, including developers, users, and purchasers, as to what sort of things we'd like to see.

    I heard that's what SourceForge and even Slashdot were about. Before you find that odd, both sites are actually very good barometers of peoples' desires. And plus, they already have alphaWorks [] and developerWorks [], both of which I visit on a regular basis.
  • Where were they when Eazel tanked? What about the folks at SourceXchange? Are they doing anything more than thinking about marketing, pr facetime, and beating their own products to death?

    Please don't get me wrong, I too am saddened and disappointed at Eazel's demise. But I appreciate the fact that IBM has adopted a mostly hands-off approach to third party open source development.

    Consider that IBM did decide to fund a company like Eazel, what makes that any better than Microsoft funding Corel? I think IBM is doing the "right thing", and avoiding lots of nasty accusations in the process.

  • Ya forgot to mention Windows 2000 Terminal Server. Wahoo!

    (Seriously there's a system that could use some testing.)

  • Yeah, all the specs for the machine are there (10 CPUs, 32GB RAM) and 2.1 TB disk and they still call it DASD! I'm having bad flashbacks to allocating cylinders and other IBM doublespeak.
  • by Gollo ( 415077 ) on Wednesday May 23, 2001 @12:27AM (#204095)
    I expect that the majority of work allowed by Big Blue will be architecture porting and testing (eg, x86 to S390), rather than development from scratch. There of course will be (I expect) some products that may wish to exploit the Linux-to-z/OS (the OS formerly known as OS/390, MVS, yadda-yadda) functionality that is soon to come (why go over the network from a logical Linux machine to a logical z/OS machine when you can go cross-memory?), and these will be developing some code from the gound up. But I can see that a lot of software currently running successfully on x86, PPC, etc (commercial or not) needs to be tested on 390 to officialy "support" it, and, let's face it, not many people have easy access to a 390 machine, let alone a 390 machine running Linux!

    This is IBM's way of getting as much existing Linux software as possible to list 390 as a supported architecture. There's a lot of support-contract related money to be made by distributions in this areana....if a company has already shelled out on 390 hardware, they are hardly going to go without a software support contract for their Linux Distro.

    Having said all that, I believe that the porting effort is negligable for most user-level applications, but of course, you would like someone to actually test their software on the architecture before assuring you it works there, wouldn't you? :-)

  • A number of posts have discussed IBM's intentions and whether or not this is just a hype device. I just wanted to chime in and mention that I have been part of a Linux startup for over 2 years now and IBM have been incredibly responsive to any input or criticisms our group has offered. I know that IBM views Linux as their opportunity to gain ground in a server market that they have lost to Sun largely because of the OS and less because of the hardware. IBM would like to encourage the growth of the 390 largely because they feel it is fundamentally a superior product, but is losing ground because of the application space. To that end (and I was actually present at a meeting w/ a General Manager and 3 VP's) when someone mentioned the idea of making time available. Everyone's reaction was enthusiastic. For them, here was a great opportunity to be viewed by the best the open source communitiy has to offer and allow IBM the opportunity to prove that they do in fact offer superior hardware. Things like limited time I imagine are only there to prevent squatters from wasting people's time. Beyond that, IBM seems to have demonstrated a complete commitment to Linux on all levels, so this idea really just seems to be the next obvious evolution of that commitment. I do have to admit though, the spraypaint thing was cooler IMHO. simple4
  • Z/VM is VM/ESA, the operating system, after a renaming and extensions for the new CPU archtecture.

    VM PRF is the performance reporting facility I think... I dont remember if this was the old SMART or not; I dont think it is -- it reports on all of the performance and accounting data collected by VM.

    REXX is the interpreter on IBM mainframes. The REXX compiler will let you compile REXX (duh) which speeds up things slightly and obfuscates the code tremendously.

    TCPIP is the service product on VM that talks to the networking hardware. Gee, go figure.

    DIRMAINT is a rather hideous way of updating the VM user directory. VMSECURE (last owned by Sterling Software afaik) is much nicer but not an IBM product. This is how you change user passwords, setup disk space, etc. on VM.

    Tivioli Storage Manager will be their backup software. Could be DFHSM or some such renamed.

    NFS should be fairly self-evident. I'm GUESSing this represents NFS drives as VM Shared File System files, the old version exported VM minidisks over NFS -- so that may be it instead.

    EREP is the error reporting program to take hardware records collected by VM and figure out why the machine went casters up.

    Matt Kromer (matt digicool com)

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant