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Mm, Linux-on-mainframe admin brains: IBM wolfs down Israeli upstart

Possible port of WAVE to Power Systems on back of CSL gobble?

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Here's something you don't see very often: IBM making an acquisition that has to do with its System z mainframes.

This week, Big Blue snapped up Computing Solutions Leaders, which was founded in 2004 and which is located in Herzliya Pituach, Israel. The small company has expertise in managing Linux and virtualization on IBM mainframes.

CSL was started by Sharon Chen, who started out as a mainframe operator three decades ago, and then moved on to Unix system administration and systems programming.

Chen is CEO at the company, while Amir Glaser is vice president of research and development. Glaser was a mainframe systems programmer for the Israeli Defence Forces when he started out in IT thirteen years ago, and he has expertise in mainframe communications, capacity planning and performance.

The company's main product, CSL-WAVE, was just updated with a 3.2 release earlier this year, and is used to manage all aspects of either Red Hat or SUSE Linux variants of the Linux operating system running on top of IBM's z/VM virtualization layer (which is also an operating system of sorts in its own right).

This includes cloning and provisioning Linux instances wrapped up to run on z/VM. With the 3.2 release, CSL cooked up a bare-metal provisioning wizard to make provisioning Linux atop z/VM guests easier.

CSL-WAVE 3.2 now has a z/VM account manager that classifies and sorts various Linux instances by project, type, or some other metric chosen by admins.

The new release also provided the tool with deeper integration with Microsoft's Active Directory authentication software and, for the true Unix and Linux nerds, it can hook in to Kerberos authentication software as well.

It also has a graphical Linux performance tool to help administrators get a handle on how those Linux instances are doing out there on the mainframe.

Linux has been available on IBM's System z mainframes since 2000, and among new mainframe customers, about half are Linux-only shops.

In 2009, when the server market collapsed mightily thanks to the Great Recession, mainframe capacity sales on System z mainframes rose by 10 per cent, and Linux continues to be an important part of the mainframe business.

In a statement announcing the CSL acquisition, Greg Lotko, the IBM exec who heads up the System z line, said that the amount of mainframe capacity running Linux that Big Blue shipped in the first quarter of this year nearly had doubled compared to the year-ago period.

This was against a pretty poor showing in systems overall, with Systems and Technology Group seeing a 17 per cent drop in sales to $3.11bn. System z mainframe sales were off 7 per cent and Power Systems sales were down a whopping 32 per cent.

IBM wants to beef up sales of Linux on its Power Systems machines, which typically run IBM's AIX variant of Unix or the proprietary IBM i (formerly OS/400) operating system.

The CSL deal makes good business sense for IBM. Any tool that can make it easier to configure and run Linux - whether it be on System z with the z/VM hypervisor or Power Systems with the PowerVM or KVM hypervisors - is going to be an important thing. Particularly if IBM decides to sell its System x and BladeCenter server business off to Lenovo, as has been rumored for months now.

IBM says it hopes to close the CSL acquisition in the third quarter. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. ®

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