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IBM zEnterprise mainframes to run Windows servers

Microsoft OS to run on x86 blades integrated with big iron

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IBM says it will support servers running Microsoft Windows on one of its mainframe platforms by the end of this year.

In a post last week titled "zEnterprise support for Microsoft Windows," IBM said, "In the fourth quarter of 2011, IBM intends to offer select IBM System x blades running Microsoft Windows in the IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension Model 002."

zEnterprise is a mainframe product line introduced last year, while System x is IBM's line of x86 servers for Windows and Linux. With the BladeCenter extension, System x servers are integrated with the mainframe and managed from the same console.

Analyst Wayne Kernochan of Infostructure Associates expressed excitement about IBM's upcoming move in a new article titled "IBM's 2011 System z: Windows Support Is Big News."

It's not quite full integration between Windows and the mainframe but it's an important step, he writes. Windows and the mainframe, he notes, have been the two most difficult server platforms to combine, partly due to technical difficulties and partly because IBM and Microsoft seem to think "users just don't care that much."

"Full support of application-level administration and load balancing for Windows platforms is not yet in the IBM roadmap," Kernochan writes. "And as for full integration of Windows platforms with the mainframe in a private cloud, that's at the very least not yet in the roadmap, and perhaps a goal that may never be reached."

Still, he adds, "This does not mean that IBM's planned support for Windows on zEnterprise is incomplete. On the contrary, IBM has applied its usual combination of strong technology and services to allow users to implement IBM System x blades running Windows that integrate seamlessly into the overall zEnterprise solution."

Kernochan also discusses the value of integrating Windows, Linux and IBM's z/OS mainframe operating system.

"If we can imitate enough of Windows on Linux or on Linux-supporting blades, we can move most Windows apps to scale up servers when needed (Unix/Linux and/or mainframe)," he writes.

Third party vendors will make tools to treat Windows virtual machines "as just another system for purposes of backup/recovery, monitoring, load balancing and distributed-application creation," Kernochan writes. Those tools won't be ready in 2011, but "even with these limitations, IBM's promised Windows support will be immediately valuable to many organisations," he writes.

The IBM announcement said System x blades running Linux will be available for zEnterprise beginning in the third quarter of 2011. IBM initially did not plan to add Windows support, but changed course based on customer feedback.

"The reaction to delivering IBM System x capabilities has been very positive, with our clients also asking that we support Microsoft Windows," IBM says.



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