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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?

The 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 your virtual environment can be fine-tuned (even dynamically) to adapt to existing and changing needs. Capacity (in the CPU, I/O and network) can be added on the fly and redirected if it’s needed 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.

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 distributed 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 Linux is combined 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?

Per-processor software licenses can be shared 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 usage 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 to 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, such as Apache, MySQL and Samba, that run on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for x86 servers, also run on the mainframe. For more information on workloads for System z, download the white paper Workloads for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z.

How many users are running Linux on the mainframe?

Gartner1 believes that approximately 30 to 35 percent of IBM System z customers are actively using Integrated Facilities for Linux (IFLs), and that there are around 7,000 IFLs installed worldwide. IBM has made steady progress in expanding the use of Linux on the mainframe. Approximately 15 percent of the total mainframe MIPS installed worldwide are Linux MIPS. Today, Linux on System z offers a powerful combination used by more than 1,300 clients around the world to run business-critical transactions, such as powering global financial networks. The outlook for growth remains good, with a market penetration of 50 percent of the System z installed base by the end of 2012.

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 approximately 10 years of technology expertise for Linux on the mainframe. In 1999, SUSE GmbH 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 from SUSE clearly dominates the Linux mainframe market, with a share of 80-plus percent 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 advantage of System z hardware and the z/VM operating system. IBM submits changes to the Linux kernel to the upstream Linux development team. For example, in the latest versions of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server alone, SUSE has implemented more than 100 IBM customer requirements specifically focused on enhancements for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z.

What are some of the features that have been implemented with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z 11?

With SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z 11 SUSE has implemented many IBM and joint-customer requirements to enhance SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z, including:

  • Dynamic add/remove of CPU/memory: This allows you to adjust resources of a Linux system in an LPAR or guest under z/VM, while it is running.
  • Cross architecture debugging: System z core dumps can be analyzed in x86 systems, negating the need for a duplicate System z server.
  • Higher performance analysis in the disk subsystem: This feature allows performance analysts to find out where bottlenecks are occurring in a system.
  • Vertical CPU management: With the System z10 being more NUMA-like than previous generations of System z servers, this feature will help get the most performance out of the hardware because it is aware of those NUMA characteristics.

What is new in Service Pack 1?

With SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z 11 Service Pack 1, most of the new features of version 11 have been taken even further. Here are just some of the most important new and enhanced features you'll find in this version:

  • Large page support: This provides the possibility for processes to allocate process memory in chunks of 2 MB instead of 4 KB. This boosts performance as better system throughput is achieved with large page support.
  • Suspend/resume support: With this feature, you can stop a running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z instance and later continue operations. When the Linux instance is suspended, data is written to a swap partition. This gives you better performance, resource utilization and power savings.
  • Automatic initialprogramload (IPL) after dump: This feature helps increase availability and minimize downtime, as well as keep management and service costs low.
  • DS8000 support/large volume support: With this feature, you can now use one large volume, instead of multiple small volumes, for your large quantities of data. You no longer need to combine and manage various small disks anymore. This gives you much better performance and data consolidation.
  • Support of the new high performance FICON (HPF) TCW command interface in the DASD driver: This feature increases performance for database serving.
  • Next-generation crypto hardware features and performance improvements: These features are exploited by SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z. Hardware-driven crypto acceleration functions such as CPU offload, which results in increased security and helps you reduce operations and maintenance costs. They also help you get high-performing and highly secure servers with high transaction rates.

What is new in Service Pack 2?

This update delivers significant advances in performance and I/O throughput, systems management, system diagnosis and problem resolution, as well as special features for the exploitation of the latest zEnterprise hardware. Among them are:

  • Kernel 3.0: SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z 11 SP2 includes the Linux 3.0.x kernel which allows for enablement of the most recent hardware, and provides massively improved I/O throughput and performance.
  • Enhanced CPU node affinity support for z196 provides for increased application workload density per system and much better performance.
  • DS8000 Solid State Drive support: Workloads can be placed on the storage which best supports their I/O characteristics, random I/O is accelerated, and sequential I/O can be placed cost effectively.
  • z196 exploitation via alternate GCC increases the application workload density per system, so less time and cycles are used for the same workload.
  • Dynamic PAV toleration improves the flexibility and availability of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z, by allowing changes in the Parallel Access Volume (PAV) infrastructure without the need to restart the system.

Learn more

What is new in Service Pack 3?

The primary purpose of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z 11 Service Pack 3 is to consolidate patches and updates, and to deliver enhancements such as hardware enablement to the product, to provide our customers with an incomparably stable platform. To name just a few of the enhanced or new features:

  • RAS: Fuzzy Live Dump for System z With this feature, you can create kernel dumps from a running Linux system, to allow problem analysis without taking the system down. Because the Linux system continues running while the dump is written, and kernel data structures might change during the dump process, the resulting dump might contain some inconsistency. Nevertheless in most cases the dump is still useful.
  • RAS: Compare dump system with boot system A dump system is not necessarily identical to the system that was booted. Linux guest relocation or suspend and resume activities might introduce problems. To help analyze such problems, a system dump now provides location information about the original Linux system.
  • Hardware Enablement: Leverage Cross Memory Attach Functionality for System z Cross memory attach reduces the number of data copies needed for intra-node interprocess communication. In particular, MPI libraries engaged in intra-node communication can now perform a single copy of the message to shared memory rather than performing a double copy.
  • Hardware Enablement: CryptoExpress4 - Device Driver Exploitation With SLES 11 SP3 the z90crypt device driver supports the Crypto Express 4 (CEX4) adapter card.
  • Storage: Flash Express Support for IBM System z Flash Express memory is accessed as storage-class memory increments. Storage-class memory for IBM System z is a class of data storage devices that combine properties of both storage and memory. This feature improves the paging rate and access performance for temporary storage, for example, for data warehousing.
  • Storage: Enhanced DASD Statistics for PAV and HPF This feature improves DASD I/O diagnosis, especially for Parallel Access Volume (PAV) and High Performance FICON (HPF) environments, to analyze and tune DASD performance.
  • Performance: Leverage Cross Memory Attach Functionality for System z Cross memory attach reduces the number of data copies needed for intra-node interprocess communication. In particular, MPI libraries engaged in intra-node communication can now perform a single copy of the message to shared memory rather than performing a double copy.
  • Performance: Libhugetlbfs support for System z Enables the transparent exploitation of large pages in C/C++ programs. Applications and middleware programs can profit from the performance benefits of large pages without changes or recompilation.
  • Virtualization: Technical Preview: Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) KVM is a Linux kernel infrastructure virtualization solution for x86 hardware that includes the Intel or AMD virtualization extensions (Intel VT and AMD-V), and for the IBM POWER and IBM System z architectures. With SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z 11 SP3, we let you check out KVM 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 (e.g., the installation routine cannot access built-in DVD reader or firewall rule changes are needed). SUSE Linux Enterprise Server Starter System for System z is a pre-built 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.

Read 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 stands for the highest code quality, better supportability and preemptive code maintenance.
  • The internal Build Service, unique to SUSE Linux Enterprise, is the mechanism behind the common code base. Build Service is able to compile (build) whole Linux distributions in a fully automated manner. The only human interaction happens when the SUSE engineering team specifies the package selection, the toolchain and the target hardware architecture for the build process.
  • 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. The most recent version of the tool can be hosted 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 functionalities—and is fully supported.
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise High Availability Extension, included with SUSE Linux Enterprise for System z, is an affordable, integrated suite of innovative open source clustering technologies. It lets you implement highly available Linux clusters. This helps you maintain business continuity, protect data integrity, and reduce unplanned downtime for your mission-critical Linux workloads. It delivers all of the essential monitoring, messaging and cluster resource management functionality of proprietary third-party solutions. High availability is now within the reach of any business.

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

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z is priced higher than other architectures and is priced per-IFL specialty engine or processor. This pricing difference is largely due to the number of virtual machines that can simultaneously run workloads on a single mainframe processor and other additional specific capabilities that are provided as part of the System z platform, such as disaster recovery. However, SUSE has put a new pricing model in place. It is called multi-IFL pricing, and it enables you to manage the total cost of acquisition and the total cost of ownership when consolidating workloads to Linux on System z. By ordering your SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for System z subscriptions via the multi-IFL pricing structure, you will get a price benefit, which scales by volume. In addition, SUSE consistently has pricing promotions in effect that get you more than you pay for, leading to significant cost savings.

Learn more about the special offerings and promotions that are available

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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