X86-based PCs dont scale well in the data center, and IBM is doing a better job than anyone else at helping customers keep the key PC benefits of unmatched software selection and ready administrator and developer availability without the associated PC hardware pain.
The PC problem boils down to manageability. Administrative, organizational and security requirements (combined with the relatively low cost of X86 servers) usually mean these boxes are deployed for single applications or single departments.
The cycles are out there but are broken apart in stunningly wasteful ways. Ill bet that more than 95 percent of the worlds computing capacity is devoted to screen savers.
When you try to consolidate 50 or 500 of these servers (even 1U rack models) into a data center, maintenance of these systems gets expensive, wiping out the savings of the cheap hardware.
Every server needs uninterruptible power, temperature control, security, floor space, asset and configuration tracking, and preventive maintenance. Then, every server needs an initial setup, regular configuration audits and a steady stream of security updates.
In addition, those servers have CPU fans and hard drives eagerly waiting to die. Just managing the spare parts and the maintenance agreements is a big job.
Did I mention that most of these servers sit idle for big parts of the day?
Ultimately, the industry has to move to a sharable computing model, where capacity is dynamically allocated based on point-in-time demand. Anything else is too expensive.
All this makes IBM seem positively prescient in its move two years ago to ramp up its zSeries (mainframe) and iSeries (AS/400) Linux-in-a-virtual-machine efforts. This option is the best general-purpose, sharable computing system right now. IBM customers can leverage the size of the Linux software base and growing pool of capable Linux system administrators using hardware they already have.
Talk about being ready for the markets sweet spot! IBMs dedicated Linux zSeries server, announced at the end of January, looks sizzling-hot indeed.
In the future, clustered operating systems (the grid computing idea) will provide these benefits to everyone, but, for now, IBMs gamble is paying off handsomely for its customers and for IBMs bottom line.
Does Linux make sense on your 390? Let me know at email@example.com.