IBM has been pushing Linux across its four server product lines, the most expensive of which is the mainframe zSeries, formerly known as the S/390 line. Using "partitioning" software, a mainframe can be split into several independent computers that share the same hardware. IBM and others have demonstrated running tens of thousands of Linux computers on a single mainframe.
At Telia, a G6 mainframe with more than 1,500 virtual Linux servers will replace 70 existing Sun Unix servers, IBM plans to announce Thursday. The Linux servers will host Telia business customers' Web sites.
In a way, IBM has beat Sun at its own game for the account. Sun has long been pushing to have its more powerful servers replace larger numbers of lesser Windows servers. This "server consolidation" strategy is a popular sales technique for all server sellers responding to corporate frustration at managing dozens or even thousands of servers.
The deal is worth about $3 million, said IBM spokeswoman Trink Guarino. However, it's expected to bring in more revenue in the future, as Telia upgrades the system to accommodate more customers, she added.
The deal resembles a move at IBM to persuade educational institutions to buy mainframes. IBM is working with Princeton University and another university in Tokyo to offer students what amounts to their own Linux server, actually a slice of a mainframe, John Patrick, vice president of Internet technology, said in an interview.
In addition, IBM is encouraging universities to offer access to the systems to nearby educational institutions that can't afford a mainframe of their own, Patrick said. IBM offers what amounts to price discounts to encourage this strategy, he said.
In addition to the mainframe, Telia will use IBM's "Shark" high-end storage server with 11.4 terabytes of capacity.
IBM has had a hard time getting Shark to swim against competing products from EMC, but IBM's storage system is reasonably popular with mainframe customers, analysts and IBM have said.
The new system will be shipped to Telia in mid-December.
Linux sellers Red Hat, SuSE and TurboLinux all plan to support Linux on mainframes, and mainframe sales company IntelliWare has signed a partnership to help SuSE's mainframe effort in the United States.