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Novell stacks Linux and Mono for mainframes

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When IBM announced its Linux-only Enterprise Linux Server variants of the System z mainframe two weeks ago, what the company did not say is that software partner Novell had cooked up software bundles specifically for these boxes.

IBM has 100 per cent share of the IBM-compatible mainframe market at this point, and Linux is one of the fastest growing workloads at mainframe shops; Novell claims to have 85 per cent share of Linux installations on IBM mainframes with its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, which is the kind of market share that Red Hat enjoys on x64 platforms and probably on Itanium platforms, too, at least until El Reg discovered that Red Hat doesn't plan to support Itanium machinery with next year's RHEL 6 release.

Novell obviously wants to remain the dominant supplier of Linux on mainframes, and for that reason, it has cooked up a new bundle specifically for these Enterprise Linux Server mainframe configurations, deals that are sweeter than the bulk discounts El Reg told you about when the ELS machines were announced two weeks ago.

Novell doesn't just want mainframe shops to put SLES 11 on their boxes and run Linux workloads, it wants them to take the commercially supported Mono clone of the .NET runtime environment and use that to move Windows workloads over to mainframe boxes. So Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Consolidation Suite (SLECS) bundles roll Linux and Mono software together and provide a single support package for the stack.

As previously reported, with the Enterprise Linux Server, IBM configures a System z Business Class (midrange) or Enterprise Class (high end) machine with Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) mainframe engines, which are designated only to run Linux from Red Hat or Novell. The EC version of the Linux bundle box has six engines and can scale to 64, while the BC version has two engines and scales up to ten. Each Linux engine is configured with 16 GB of main memory, plus the z/VM hypervisor for managing Linux instances, I/O connectivity to disks and networks, plus hardware and software maintenance for a term that runs from three to five years.

The entry Enterprise Linux Server BC box costs $212,000 with two Linux engines and presumably three years of support. IBM does not provide list pricing for mainframe components, but has told El Reg that "customers can expect a sizeable discount" compared to setting up an EC or BC box to run Linux and buying the parts piecemeal. Moreover, as customers turn on Linux engines and add to the box, IBM says each incremental unit of MIPS costs less and less for hardware, software, and support - what IBM calls "save as you grow" pricing.

Novell has four bundles for the Linux-only mainframe, two for BC machine and two for EC machines. Each variant has basic or priority support. The SLECS basic license has a three-year basic subscription for two IFL engines, which can be expanded across four IFLs; it also includes two licenses for the SLES Mono Extension runtime, which debuted with SLES 11 back in March, which costs $200 per x64 server but $7,000 per IFL for an annual support license.

The special mainframe stack has a three-year license to the Mono Extension as well as two licenses and a three-year support contract for the Mono Tools for Microsoft's Visual Studio IDE. Novell is also tossing in two on-demand training vouchers, presumably to help mainframe shops figure out how to use Linux and Mono instead of Windows and .NET. The cost for a three-year support contract for normal business hours on the System z BC machine with two engines is $39,795. Boosting coverage to 24x7 priority support raises the price to $56,322. By mainframe standards, these prices are a steal. By x64 standards, they are a joke.

For the System z EC variants of the Enterprise Linux Server from IBM, Novell's suite includes SLES licenses and support for four engines, and the Mono Extensions for two of those engines, two seats for the Mono Tools for Visual Studio, and two training vouchers. For basic support (9x5 business hours), Novell is charging $79,999 for three years of support; bumping that up to 24x7 priority support on an EC machine costs $113,053.

It is not clear if Novell has formally adopted pay as you grow pricing that makes this Linux/Mono stack less expansive as more Linux engines are turned on, but you can bet that Novell will be compelled by mainframe shops to follow Big Blue's lead and will be thrilled to get whatever money is can out of mainframers at these profit margins. ®

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