Linux on Mainframes

By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2002-07-08 Print this article Print

Linux on Mainframes

At Visa International in San Francisco, for example, Inder Singh, global chief technology officer, is looking at the possibility of using Linux for an upgrade of Visas mainframe-based distributed processing environment, which powers the companys transaction authorization and settlement systems. Visa currently uses the IBM mainframe environment for those particular applications. In its examination of the open-source operating system, Visa is comparing Linuxs robustness and reliability against proprietary software such as Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris and Hewlett-Packard Co.s HP-UX.

Visa is now conducting an analysis of Linux running on mainframe hardware, looking at total cost of ownership for the platform, among other issues. But the main reason Linux is even considered a viable candidate at Visa is because of its backing by IBM. Singh said Linux would not have been considered if IBM had not started offering support for the operating system in its mainframe environment.

"With any piece of software, we want to ensure that there are dedicated resources to maintaining and enhancing a product, and that is even more important with open-source software," Singh said. "With proprietary software, youre guaranteed a level of support, a level of trust that the systems youre running can be maintained. IBM backing Linux means that trust factor exists for us."

While the backing of a large vendor is important, participation of members from the open-source community in supporting a given platform is key, IT managers say. Edmunds Cate said that before standardizing on any open-source product, he always looks to see how much documentation is available, whether a good FAQ for it exists and whether there is an active newsgroup on Usenet dedicated to a particular piece of open-source soft-ware. Cate, who uses Apache 1.3.26 to power his Web servers, also looks at the frequency of the releases for a given open-source platform and how often bugs are fixed.

"How long a product has been in the market and whether or not theres user acceptance is extremely important to us," Cate said. "A large degree of our enterprise relies on Apache and to some degree on open source. Its successful because we deploy software we know will be supported by the community."

As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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