Tech Industry

Commentary: IBM's Linux leanings

The operating system represents Big Blue's best opportunity to capture new workloads for its mainframe business, Gartner analysts say.

By Mike Chuba and John Phelps, Gartner Analysts

In the past year, Linux on the mainframe has moved from an outsider in the data center to a credible offering for select environments.

IBM continues to invest heavily in the

See news story:
IBM to sell Linux-only mainframe
promotion of Linux on the mainframe, as that operating system represents its best opportunity to capture new workloads for its mainframe business within the enterprise as well as with Internet service providers.

The company's announcement of a Linux-only mainframe represents a significant step toward seizing that opportunity. A stand-alone Linux system addresses, to some extent, the traditional mainframe's weak areas: package-application portfolio, cost of ownership, and applicability to the midsize IS organization. Theoretically, this announcement takes Linux on the mainframe beyond IBM's existing customers, although it remains to be seen whether the company can effectively market outside this customer base.

Gartner estimates that approximately 70 customers have production work running under Linux on the mainframe, with several hundred more in various stages of trial. Only customers who are ready to commit to Linux should consider this new package. The reason: This is a three-year offering, and no exit upgrade path for the hardware to the z900 exists.

IBM's entry price is expected to be under $400,000 for a three-year z/Architecture Linux solution. This represents a significant improvement over previous offerings and will appeal to the company's mainframe customers. Non-mainframe customers will be less impressed by that price unless IBM can show them the benefits of consolidating their workloads on this platform.

To achieve optimum results from its Linux-on-the-mainframe strategy, Gartner believes that IBM must do the following:

• Clearly show the unique total cost-of-ownership factors for each separate installation, including the personnel costs.

• Provide further evidence of a rapidly growing portfolio of applications.

• Gain the support of independent software vendors--particularly those that currently price on a cost-per-unit or per-server basis--for situations in which workloads are consolidated from tens or hundreds of servers down to one zServer.

(For related commentary on how IBM's Project eLiza fits with the company's Linux investments, see

Entire contents, Copyright © 2002 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.