Fujitsu Siemens has been showing off the latest additional to its BS2000/OSD family of mainframes - the SQ Series. Powered by Intel Xeon processors, Fujitsu Siemens is focusing on the high-end Microsoft market as well as users of its BS2000/OSD operating system. At the same time, Fujitsu-Siemens announced that
This is the first time Fujitsu Siemens has ported the BS2000/OSD to the Intel platform although it has supported various processors over the years. For existing customer, this move to Intel marks the end of the SX range based on the Sparc64 by 2009. Fujitsu Siemens will continue to support the SX servers until 2014 but by then expects to have moved all customers off to the new SQ servers by then.
For customers using SX Servers with Solaris, this may present a challenge as there are no immediate plans to port Solaris x86 to the SX range. Dr Joseph Reger, CTO, Fujitsu Siemens said "there are few applications that don't already run on Windows and Linux. Possibly, if x86 Solaris is still around in a few years time we might support it. But it would have to run on Xen on Domain 0."
So why move to Intel? Reger says there are several reasons. "Intel is the dominating technology in the market. That doesn't mean it is the best technology but it is now good enough for the mainframe. It will be around for a long time and that is part of the stability required for the mainframe. Cost, in terms of the economies of scale are something that we can not achieve with non Intel processors."
Reger continued "In terms of performance, we will start with the dual core processors but have already been looking at the quad cores although they are not going to be available immediately. For those customers who need to allocate the entire processor to the application, Intel has a technology called Turbo mode where you can switch off the multiple cores and get the maximum speed out of the remaining core. This will be important for some of our customer applications."
Despite this being based on commodity processors and memory, there are limits as to what you can put into the machine. "Memory is a nightmare" according to Reger "but mainframe people know better than to want change all the time. There will be a restricted set of memory upgrades/swaps that are accepted by the system. This is all part of being a mainframe. One feature we do have is complete memory mirroring. Should there be any problems we can switch over to the other copy immediately"
Fujitsu Siemens has also done a lot of work at the virtualisation layer to make if mainframe stable. "We decided on Xen because we could take the code and harden it" says Reger". "We are at the beginning of this development and the changes that we make will not be going back to the Open Source community. There are issues over Intellectual Property (IP) that we need to consider and issues over stability. Customers do not want the code changing quickly so we will work with them to make changes that they say are important.
All of this leads to when will we actually see the SQ100 with multiple operating systems? The answer is not too quickly. Fujitsu Siemens is play the long game here. When the product ships this year, it will only have support for BS2000. Sometime in 2009, the hypervisor will be released and you will be able to run multiple copies of BS2000. For those who want to run Windows and Linux in the hypervisor, you will have to wait until 2010. Like everything else in the mainframe world, releases are not rushed out of the door.