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What is IBM System z?

IBM System z servers are large-scale computer systems which are mainly used by customers for business-critical installations in organizations which need very high availability and reliability. For such organizations, System z machines normally provide a lower total cost of ownership than other platforms, especially when running a variety of workloads concurrently. IBM System z servers have become well known for server virtualization and workload consolidation through their superior capabilities, which provide the opportunity to minimize IT costs. Linux environments on System z servers build on the outstanding capabilities of z/VM virtualization. They focus on optimal resource utilization, high flexibility, easy and fast provisioning, load-balancing and efficient systems management. The z hardware technology is designed to run multiple and different workloads in parallel, and provides a balanced system, internal networking, and unmatched levels of availability and security.

I am new to Linux on System z. What is an IFL?

An Integrated Facility for Linux, or IFL for short, is a specialty engine for the IBM mainframe dedicated to running Linux with or without z/VM. IFLs are one of three types of mainframe processors expressly designed to reduce software costs. (The other types are zAAP for Java code and zIIP for DB2.) Microcode restricts IFLs to Linux workloads by omitting some processor instructions not used by the Linux kernel.

More information on IFLs

What is z/VM?

z/VM is the virtualization technology in System z. In other words, it is an operating system hypervisor designed for System z (or any equivalent server designed to the z/Architecture). Using z/VM you can run different operating systems such as z/OS and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z with different workloads in parallel and in virtual machines on the host mainframe.

In addition, z/VM lets you remap and share existing system resources. This means that you can fine tune your virtual environment (even dynamically) to adapt to existing and changing needs. You can add capacity (in the CPU, I/O and network) on the fly and redirect it if you need it elsewhere.

In what ways can Linux be run on the mainframe?

On an IFL, Linux can run in standalone mode in a logical partition (LPAR) and under z/VM. Currently, approximately 95 percent of Linux deployments on System z are run under z/VM.

Visit https://www.vm.ibm.com/ for more information.

What is SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z?

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z is a commercial Linux operating system specifically tailored for the mainframe. This means that various z/VM operating system and System z hardware features are exploited by SUSE Linux Enterprise Server to ensure that resource sharing, disaster recovery and other capabilities are available for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z lets you consolidate existing distributed workloads and bring new workloads onto System z servers to help minimize costs, reduce downtime, decrease data center complexity and increase business agility.

Is SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z the right hardware platform for me?

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z running on an IBM mainframe is the ideal choice for customers with existing mainframes that want to add Linux and benefit from the combined advantages, as well as new customers that decide for the first time to buy a System z machine running Linux. Mainly this combined solution is ideal for customers that:

  • Host hundreds of virtual servers that run a mix of workload types and need to consolidate their environment
  • Are experiencing or projecting IT growth and want a better way to manage that growth with z/VM
  • Struggle to host I/O and data-intensive workloads in virtual servers with acceptable levels of performance, scalability, availability, capacity planning or disaster recovery
  • Need high I/O bandwidth and scalability, or rock-solid system security

What are the benefits of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z?

When you combine Linux with IBM's industry-leading virtualization technology—z/VM—running in a System z environment, it delivers the high level of availability and productivity required in today's global, networked environment. Leveraging all of these exceptional System z capabilities with Linux on z/VM can improve the total cost of ownership in your IT infrastructure. Together, IBM and SUSE are introducing IT organizations to the compelling business value of hosting virtual servers on System z with z/VM and Linux. With SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z, you can take advantage of the following benefits:

  • Reduced training costs and increased productivity of IT staff
  • Reduced software costs by consolidating a large number of virtual machines per System z core
  • Reduced energy costs and power usage
  • Reduced facilities costs and floor space with dense server consolidation on System z

I heard that mainframes, when used for server virtualization and running Linux, may lower total cost of ownership (TCO) considerably. What kind of savings do I get?

You can share per-processor software licenses among multiple Linux virtual servers running on a single mainframe. These processors can either be a standard engine or an IFL engine. An IFL is a specialty processor from IBM that is designed to make it more economical to run Linux workloads on the mainframe. An Oracle license for a standard engine or IFL, for example, is the same price as an Oracle license for a one-processor x86 server.

A mainframe requires only about 20 percent of the floor space and power use of comparable capacity x86 servers. When IBM releases a new processor technology, it is typically much faster and has more features. IFL owners will not have to pay for the upgraded IFLs in the new machine. This is not common practice among vendors running Linux on x86 servers.

What are the most important advantages, in terms of functionality, that are gained by running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on a mainframe?

  • Faster server provisioning in the form of virtual servers (minutes or hours versus days and weeks)
  • Higher performance communication among Linux virtual servers and other system components such as z/VM and z/OS running on the same System z hardware
  • Inherited disaster recovery
  • Higher utilization for mixed workloads
  • “Data center in a box”—Multiple complete in-tier applications in one physical footprint

What workloads are best suited for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z?

A mixture of high I/O transaction-oriented workloads and moderately CPU intensive workloads are best for mainframes; however, Oracle, SAP, IBM middleware, and many other ISVs contribute to the more than 3,150 applications running on Linux on the mainframe. Almost all of IBM's middleware applications run on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z. In addition, hundreds of open source applications that run on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for x86 servers, such as Apache, MySQL and Samba, also run on the mainframe.

Why should I choose SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z over other Linux distributions for mainframes?

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z is the market-leading Linux operating system for IBM System z, and it incorporates more than 15 years of technology expertise for Linux on the mainframe. In 1999, SUSE started its cooperation with IBM and Marist College to move the available Linux code into an enterprise-ready Linux distribution. Since that time, SUSE has been on the forefront of Linux on System z.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z has been available to customers since 2000. Entering this new market, it was the only available enterprise-class Linux—commercially maintained and supported—that delivered the reliability, availability and serviceability (RAS) expected by IBM's mainframe customers.

Although other enterprise-like Linux offerings entered the market, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server clearly dominates the Linux mainframe market today. When you consolidate workloads using SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z, you receive all the benefits of mainframe computing and Linux, including high reliability, immense scalability, solid security and the ability to consolidate distributed workloads cost effectively.

What is the relationship between SUSE and IBM in the development of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z?

SUSE and IBM continue to work very closely together in Germany at the SUSE office in Nuremberg and IBM's Boeblingen development center. SUSE continues to be the first to take advantage of the hardware capabilities of IBM's System z for Linux and is typically first to work with IBM to support new features and to make those advancements available in the mainstream Linux kernel. SUSE and IBM, in conjunction with IBM's mainframe customers, are working together to determine what changes to make to the Linux kernel so you can take full advantage of System z hardware and the z/VM operating system.

What are some of the features that have been implemented with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z 12?

To make sure you get the most out of your environment, and so you benefit from the latest hardware innovation, we decided to do an Architecture Level Set that provides state of the art System z processor hardware exploitation for IBM z196, z114, zBC12 and zEC12. For you this means a much faster Linux system with enhanced compiler and toolchain that help boost your application performance.

In addition, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z 12 includes many new features to improve operational efficiency, increase uptime, and accelerate innovation. Some of these features are:

  • Security: Support for the latest System z hardware based PKCS #11 cryptographic cards. PKCS #11 is part of the Public-Key Cryptography Standards, and is widely used for access smart cards and in hardware security models. This functionality is required for financial institutions and other organizations that need to ensure encrypted, authenticated and secured transactions. To easily set-up this crypto hardware stack on System z, you can also select a new install pattern in YaST during installation.
  • RAS (reliability, availability, serviceability): PCHID mapping helps you to determine the physical channel-ID (PCHID) associated with a channel path identifier (CHPID) and results in faster problem resolution. With the kernel support for concurrent Flash MCL (microcode level) updates to Flash storage media during operation, you can apply upgrades without impacting I/O operations to the flash storage media. Disk mirroring with real-time enhancement for System z provides better service availability. With the function Dump to zfcp/SCSI Partition, the SCSI dump tool writes dumps directly to a SCSI partition, without using a file system.
  • Increased operational efficiency and performance: Improved performance of dasdfmt enhances the speed of the DASD formatting process. This lowers administration time and efforts, and supports growth with the option to use larger future DASDs. Support of transparent large pages provides performance improvements for applications that access large amounts of anonymous memory. The feature multiple netiucv paths for communication between z/VM guests lets you establish multiple netiucv connections between the same two z/VM guests, which results in better scalability for z/VM Linux data exchange and improved performance. The Optimized Compression Library zlib improves performance and lowers processor resource consumption for applications using this library. Support for zPXE Boot provides a similar function to the PXE boot on x86 and x86-64 for easier automated installation.
  • Virtualization - Technical Preview: Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) is a Linux kernel infrastructure virtualization solution for x86 hardware and for the IBM POWER and IBM System z architectures. With SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z 12, you get the chance to try KVM out on the System z hardware platform.

Learn more

What is the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server Starter System for System z?

Unique to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z is the Starter System for System z. Historically, one of the biggest hurdles to implementing Linux on the mainframe has been gaining network access to the installation media from the mainframe (for example, the installation routine cannot access a built-in DVD reader, or firewall rule changes are needed).

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server Starter System for System z is a prebuilt installation server that facilitates the installation of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z on a z/VM system. It eliminates the network access hurdle to test Linux on the mainframe and gives you network access to the installation media from the mainframe. It also allows customers with little or no Linux or z/VM experience to initiate evaluations of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z. It is free and is perfect for proof-of-concept evaluations. However, you do need a mainframe and z/VM. If you do not have z/VM, you can get an evaluation copy from IBM.

Learn more

Does SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z inherit other advantages from the SUSE Linux Enterprise platform?

Besides the specific System z features, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z also has some unique advantages that come with the SUSE Linux Enterprise platform:

  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z is part of the SUSE Linux Enterprise common code base. This means the versions, and thereby the source code, of all core packages of the SUSE Linux Enterprise product family are the same—from the desktop to the mainframe. The toolchain, like compilers and libraries (glibc), are the same across the supported hardware architectures. The common code base guarantees product consistency and a persistent look and feel, which lets you leverage the skills of your IT staff. Additionally, it provides for the highest code quality, better supportability and preemptive code maintenance.
  • Thanks to the common code base, SUSE provides new innovative core technologies that improve efficiency and help you stay competitive for all architectures, including System z. A few of the options we are introducing with SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 are:
    • Wicked, a modern, dynamic network configuration infrastructure designed to overcome the limits and complexity of traditional network configuration via configuration files and scripts.
    • GRUB2, a new boot loader, which offers advantages such as the use of modules and the recognition of many more file systems.
    • Systemd, a new system and service manager designed for Linux. It makes the boot process much simpler, which results in much faster system boot times.

Is is true that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server ships with some unique tools?

With every SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z subscription, you get access to unique tools for systems management and increased availability:

  • The YaST installation and configuration framework is unique because it covers a wide range of management tasks and features in an intuitive graphical interface. Developed to provide an extensible and standardized means of systems administration, YaST serves three main purposes: the installation of SUSE Linux Enterprise products on a system, the configuration of the installed system, and the administration of the installed system.
  • AutoYaST provides fully customizable, automatic and remote Linux installation for large numbers of systems that share a similar environment and similar—but not necessarily identical—hardware, and which perform similar tasks.
  • The downloadable Subscription Management Tool for SUSE Linux Enterprise is integrated with SUSE Customer Center and provides a repository and registration target that is synchronized with SUSE Customer Center. You can host the most recent version of the tool on System z servers as well. The Subscription Management Tool helps you centrally manage software updates within the firewall on a per-system basis, while maintaining your corporate security policies and regulatory compliance. In addition, it helps you track your entitlements in large deployments. And using the tool, you can avoid redundant bandwidth requirements by downloading all patches at once. It is included with every SUSE Linux Enterprise subscription at no additional cost—while the competition is charging for comparable functionality—and is fully supported.
  • Unlike other vendors, SUSE includes the SUSE Linux Enterprise High Availability Extension with every subscription, making high availability affordable. This extension helps you maintain business continuity, protect data integrity and reduce unplanned downtime for your mission-critical workloads. Learn more at https://www.suse.com/products/highavailability/

What is the pricing for the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z?

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z is priced per-IFL specialty engine or processor. However, SUSE recognizes the challenges customers are facing in enterprise data centers, and the pressure to cut costs. Thus, we offer a special pricing model—the so-called multi-IFL pricing. This pricing model provides volume discounts for subscriptions of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z to multiple IFLs.

The commercial terms are the same as those for the usual subscription model for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. With the multi-IFL pricing model, subscriptions are available for one IFL, two to five IFLs, six to 11 IFLs, and 12 or more IFLs. All multi-IFL subscriptions for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z for IBM System z Business Class or Enterprise Class mainframes are available either as Basic, Standard or Priority subscriptions. All multi-IFL subscriptions are available for a one-year, a three-year or a five-year subscription term. For more information about the support options for SUSE Linux Enterprise, visit https://www.suse.com/support/programs/subscriptions/ Learn more about the pricing.

How can I purchase SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z?

You can purchase SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z from your IBM sales or business partner representative when you are purchasing a new IBM System z machine, or when you are purchasing new IBM IFLs for your existing mainframe. You can also purchase it directly from SUSE. You can simply call your SUSE sales representative or use the link below to request a sales call.

1 Gartner "Common Questions About Linux on Mainframe Trends" August 17 2009

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