IBM moves closer to Linux on mainframes

As part of a multiphase transition, Big Blue, in Armonk, N.Y., has signed a deal with Banco Mercantile, which has assets that total US$3 billion, to migrate the functions now carried out by 30 Windows NT servers to one of its mainframes running Linux. The Windows NT servers were acting largely as Web servers, firewalls, and Internet domain servers.

In phase two, the bank plans to move functions now being carried out by Unix-based Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard. servers over to the mainframes.

"This is a consolidation play for [the bank]. They can now run this new Linux workload right alongside the existing mainframe-based banking applications. They are basically sharing the server, which they think is a cost-effective approach to this," said Pete McCaffrey, director of IBM's enterprise servers.

Banco Mercantile has an IBM S/390 G6 that will be running a version of Linux from SuSE. The company will use IBM's virtualization technologies, most notably zVM, to allow it to run hundreds of Linux servers from the single mainframe.

The mainframe will handle a mixed workload through three different partitions, including one for Linux, one for Lotus. Domino for S/390, and one for OS/390.

"We think this decision allows us to consolidate in a pretty cost-effective way. In addition to these applications running on the mainframe, we have higher availability and better performance," said Isaac Arismendi, IT infrastructure manager at Banco Mercantile.

The bank plans to use the Linux-based mainframe to allow customers to check bank account information over the Internet. The mainframe's two built-in cryptographic co-processors are responsible for handling the security for sensitive financial data.

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