IBM Ships A Big Linux Server And Catches Up With Storage - InformationWeek

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IBM Ships A Big Linux Server And Catches Up With Storage

New IBM mainframe boss Dan Colby comes from IBM Global Services, and he's used to doing whatever the customer asks. That used to mean integrating application and database servers from Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems with IBM's big iron housing legacy data. Now, all he wants to do is beat them both. Today, IBM will ship its newest mainframe server and a storage system that will have the latest intelligent software on it. Colby wants to make sure both systems reduce the amount of manual administration customers have to do, a sore spot, he says, for HP and Sun.

"My customers are facing a worldwide skills shortage, and I think we can cut back on the skills required for the 390 environment," says Colby, general manger of enterprise servers at IBM. Because of E-business and the need for nearly everyone to keep systems up all the time, Colby thinks HP and Sun have to drive a lot more systems management than they're accustomed to into their systems. "Sun is appropriately pooling all their resources into Solaris, but that could hurt them when it comes to Linux," he says. "I like being out front of this bow wave" of automated systems administration. HP and Sun both talk now about making their systems as easy to administer and manage as the mainframe is. The mainframe manages itself better than any other server, based on policies written ahead of time by administrators.

Colby isn't betting it all on Linux in 2001, but the freeware operating system will run alongside zOS (formerly OS/390) on the eServer z900, which anybody can buy, starting today.

Customers can partition the z900 to run thousands of Linux images. They can run all the databases and applications that used to require an expensive-to-manage network of Unix servers from HP and Sun. Users of the z900, on the other hand, can add capacity to the server in a few seconds. And, like its predecessors, it comes with the automated, policy-based administration and management functionality touted by Colby.

Colby spent eight years in Global Services, twice turning down mainframe posts. He last dealt with the mainframe in the late '80s. "Back then, I had nine straight quarters of exceeding my plan," Colby says. "They told me, 'Please restart that again.' "

He should get some help reducing manual processes from the storage group. The updated Enterprise Storage Server has been winning some accounts against heterogeneous storage vendors EMC Corp. and Hitachi Data Systems, but it lost many other accounts because its intelligent software didn't run with Unix and Windows NT/2000 servers. To remedy that situation, IBM has unveiled FlashCopy for Unix and Windows NT/2000 servers, which lets customers make nearly instantaneous copies of data while the system is online. IBM also is unveiling Peer-To-Peer Remote Copy, which lets customers copy and then restore data in remote locations for disaster recovery.

Colby should like what Peer-To-Peer Remote Copy will do for the disaster-recovery process at Spartan Stores, a grocery chain based in Grand Rapids, Mich. It's used to trucking tapes off site and sorting through them to decide which ones are obsolete. With Peer-To-Peer Remote Copy, Spartan hopes to have live copies of data stored at a remote site to keep the company running even if an entire data center is wiped out.

"We've been an EMC customer for six years, but after the first of the year, we're migrating to the ESS and PPRC," says Paul Zimmer, director of data center and technical services at Spartan. "EMC's software is good stuff, but it would have cost us at least twice as much as PPRC will cost us."

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