Tag Archives: Ported Tools

IBM acquiring Red Hat: Will it make use of Linux on z and mainframe open source easier?

IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat has some interesting ramifications for System z. My last four articles on this blog were about Porting an Enterprise App to the mainframe. I provided details on the downside of using the mainframe for Linux. In particular, there are few binaries available and the user has to build their own code instead of acquiring the binaries from others. The main reason for this problem is that IBM has been afraid of being a distributor of open source since they first announced support for Linux in May 2000. This has been especially true for the mainframe. Heaven forbid that someone would make an IP or patent claim against open source code that came from IBM, regardless of the open source license that was distributed.

And even with that difficulty, the open source movement on the mainframe is succeeding very nicely. Rocket Software, where I am now working, has the Ported Tools for z/OS. They provide open source binaries because IBM wouldn’t do that. Better yet, they’ve been keeping those binaries up to date with the open source industry. At one point, there was a Redbook for Open Source on z/OS that included binaries, but those sample pieces of code were removed. This is what motivated Rocket to become the distributor. IBM has also used other sites, such as Marist College, to host any binary versions of code, in order to put a buffer between them and potential IP issues.

Red Hat is the largest supplier of open source code in the world. Most important to me, they include binary distros for the mainframe. This will mean that IBM will become a distributor of open source binaries for the mainframe. Now, if they only take that attitude and apply it to the other areas that they support. For example, the Linux Community team maintains a Github library for open source on the mainframe. Today, it’s mainly about source code changes and leaving it up to the user to build the binary, which can take hours, instead of the seconds needed on x86 platforms to download a binary. Wouldn’t it be great if this acquisition of Redhat led to IBM’s ability to create and post binaries for open source for the mainframe? The unintended consequence of this acquisition could actually make the mainframe even easier to use and deploy. That would be a fantastic next chapter in the amazing mainframe’s legacy!

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Rocket Software is Making z/OS more Open

Twenty years ago, IBM introduced OpenEdition MVS, their first foray into “opening” the mainframe to a new community of developers. This release included the Shell and Utilities priced feature.  Production cost varied with the size of the mainframe. If you consider that only a handful of people might actually use this code when originally shipped, the “cost per seat” was astronomical compared to what was free or inexpensive on desktop systems.  This was corrected when IBM began shipping this feature as part of the base of the new OS/390 operating system. This dramatically reduced the cost and skills needed for new workload development on the mainframe for customers and vendors. But without the revenue associated with the previously priced feature, IBM didn’t keep up with the open source community and quickly, these tools fell behind. This was an unintended consequence.

Over the years, IBM worked to resolve this through relations with other companies and their own developers, but the net was the code was still aging, until they met with Rocket Software. Rocket has been in the business of supporting  mainframe customers for over twenty five years. IBM found that Rocket was using open source tools within their own z/OS development team. Given the gap in true “openness” for z/OS, Rocket decided to release their source modifications and z/OS binaries into the open source community. Through the Rocket web site, any business can download the z/OS binaries at no charge, just as they might do with Linux offerings. If a business is looking for support of those binaries, a fee offering is available, just as one might find from the paid Linux distro providers.

Rocket originally provided five ported tools as a trial last year. This month, Rocket has delivered over four times that number of tools. This re-opens the Unix System Services development environment of z/OS. This latest group of ported tools can be utilized to bring more open source middleware and utilities to z/OS, by customers, other vendors or Rocket Software. Rocket is working to provide a level of skills portability across platforms and ease the knowledge base required to create, build and operate on the mainframe, regardless of z/OS, Linux or z/VM operating system deployment. Rocket has also developed Application Lifecycle Management  for Linux on System z. This new offering is currently available as a beta offering. It’s goal is to provide greater management of Linux applications that are natively developed and managed on and from the mainframe.

Now, let’s dream how the new ported tools can be used on z/OS. Some basic items: make will help you take other open source code and get that built for z/OS.  If you are considering some of your own development activities on z/OS, cvs can be deployed as a source code library management tool. In every instance, it’s all about how the use of open source software can be integrated with existing applications and databases to create something new that’s better than a collection of software that runs across platforms. Websphere developers that work on Linux or Windows systems will find some of these new tools will add value and ease deployment and improve skills portability for building applications for z/OS. If you really want to go crazy, the Apache web server is now part of z/OS. Add in PHP and DB2 and you can have WordPress running on z/OS. Now why have WordPress? You might integrate directly into your business applications.

Rocket’s not done adding to this list. If you ask nicely, they might be willing to give you an update to bash – a shell program that’s common on all Linux and the MacOS system. In fact, if there are other tools that you are interested in, let them know via their contact site. The ported tools can be accessed here. The Application Management Lifecycle for Linux tool can be accessed by sending an email here. Happy programming.