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You've got OpenSolaris in my System z

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Bitter adversaries IBM and Sun Microsystems have been adding a little sugar to their parley. Their corporate fisticuffs have even recently given way to hand-holding.

In August, the two companies revealed that IBM will offer Solaris x86 as an option to some Xeon- and Opteron-based servers. IBM's systems chief Bill Zeitler also hinted at seeing Solaris on the System Z mainframes.

And now, perhaps their plan has come closer to fruition.

Research and engineering firm Sine Nomine Associates has been tooling an IBM System z port of OpenSolaris since Sun opened up the operating system. Apparently IBM has even expressed interest in collaborating with Sine on the project.

Fast forward to a Gartner conference this week, and David Boyes, Sine Nomine's president and CTO is ready to show the public a little peek. He gave SearchDataCenter the grand tour of the project, split into YouTube videos: one, two, three, four and five.

Just a warning, like Star Wars, the real action doesn't happen until part IV. Starting there, you can see the bootup on a System Z — complete with the Solaris kernel interrogating the environment and dynamic memory addressing. Oh! Where's a cold shower when you need one? No network support yet though.

The OpenSolaris port (which Sun is embracing, but still dubbed "unofficial") will run on IBM's z/VM virtual environment, rather than on bare metal. Boyes justifies that any advantage from running on bare metal is "completely obliterated" by the difficulties of getting an operating system like Linux or Solaris to run on a mainframe. He says virtualization also allows the OS to co-exist with the rest of the IBM world in terms of controlling and sharing. The firm decided to port the OS in the first place to appeal to those lusting for the stability of Solaris on the very virtual z platform.

It may still be a long slog until business implementation is possible — much less desirable — but it's an interesting crack-baby brainchild resulting from the changing relationship between Sun and IBM, and the opening of the Solaris platform. ®

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