Part developer, part systems administrator, somewhat of a deft evangelist, and mostly an integration engineer, Craig Gardner works at SUSE to bring various engineering efforts together. Craig builds SUSE Linux using the Open Build Service. He helps keep the collaboration tools working smoothly at SUSE. And he loves Linux since Slackware 2.0. Local schools benefit from Craig's visit to promote open source. Craig is a regular presenter at SUSECon, openSUSE events, OpenWest, and at LINUXCon since 2012. In the evenings Craig teaches Computer Software Engineering at Utah Valley University. Craig participated in the IBM ITSO residency to write the soon-to-be-in-draft Redbooks publication, Practical Migration from x86 to Linux on System z, SG24-8217.
Not everyone thinks this way, but I've heard many people let this thought fly from their lips: "I ought to write a book." I've uttered these words myself, on many occasions.
Now that I've begun to saunter down this book-writing path, I wonder why it has taken me so long to start this journey. In truth, it's hard work. Yet more truthfully, I doubt I could have come so far alone. But the adventure has been exhilarating, and although the end is in the distance, I'm hopeful that the adrenaline will last.
In March 2014 a respected co-worker brought to my attention an opportunity to work with IBM to write some technical documentation. IBM Redbooks are well respected in the industry, and many great technologists have contributed to their success. My co-worker has been a Redbooks author before, and he recommended that I submit an application. Much to my surprise, I was accepted. Two short weeks later here I sit with other experts, composing information that should be helpful to yet more professionals, improving the world of computing.
We write of migrating services from one platform to IBM System z. Conceptually easy, but not trivial. Why migrate? Because IT teams keep getting pounded with demands for more services, less downtime; more resources, and less wait time. IT Managers are always being asked to do more with less, and a significant decline in the IT budget. Are x86 systems cheap? Generally yes. And that appeals to the IT Manager who just had his hardware budget slashed again. But does throwing another x86 box in the lab really make sense? It consumes more power, generates more heat, and further clutters an already too complex landscape of physical resources to manage. What a pain. It all started out innocently enough, but it quickly grew out of control....
Thus re-enters the IBM mainframe. Written off dozens of times by pundits, but always the survivor. I worked on an IBM mainframe in college starting in 1990. I was told that the "dinosaur" was on its way out, soon to be replaced by smaller and cheaper distributed systems. Yes, I've used, managed, bandaged, and replaced hundreds of distributed systems over the years. And I keep getting re-impressed by the longevity and the versatility of the Big Iron. Despite its perceived size and monstrous profile, its as flexible and versatile as all the distributed systems that I've ever used. Instead of being the extinct dinosaur that keeps getting predicted, the IBM mainframe seems better suited as a chameleon. It's able to change and adapt appropriately for its conditions. I venture to say that a chameleon -- in the class of lizards -- is a proud descendant of those seemingly extinct dinosaurs.
And speaking of chameleons, SUSE does a mighty admirable job adapting right along with IBM. SUSE Linux on IBM mainframe is about as good as it gets. Linux workloads are particularly well suited for z/VM on System z. Linux scales perfectly on z/VM; it's indeed the perfect guest. What's more, maintaining all of your virtualization in one conglomerate of Power, CPU, RAM, Disk, and Network is a systems administrator's dream. The Linux workloads on System z won't miss their x86 home for even a moment.
Do I still use distributed x86 in my labs? Yes. There's a place for them. Maybe it's a little bit of a crutch, but I still like to play with my x86 servers for a variety of things. And like I've said, they're generally inexpensive. But I'm always grateful when I can migrate a production service to Linux on z/VM. I'm even more excited to be writing about it.