Herculean High-end Hacking

Contrary to popular belief, the mainframe is not an entirely closed system. There is a substantial amount of open source contribution, going back decades, and we need more! But the hardware is sometimes difficult to come by. Let's change that.

"Hercules, Hercules, Hercules, ..." -- Mama Klump

A gentle reader inquired about my Hercules configuration. He is having trouble getting IP connectivity between Linux running on Hercules and the rest of his network. I fear I won't be of much help: I only ever get Herc Linux to talk to the host system these days. (But that is more than my friend has at the moment.)

IBM is in a comfortable niche w/r/t their high end hardware. For "real developers", there is zPDT. It ain't free. In fact, it is well beyond what most FOSS volunteers can afford. So we have free (as in beer) ways of emulating a mainframe, like Hercules. The guys who shouldered the monmuental task of emnuating the mainframe with open-source did an amazing thing. And there are some things Hercules cannot do. So there is a place for zPDT. Maybe IBM is just trying to keep certain business partners comfortable. I hear that many developers are not. (are not "comfortable", that is)

Important note: You cannot legally run most IBM operating systems on Hercules. You can run them on several other, non-free alternatives.

For Love or Money?

The very thought of this class separation, with "real developers" being those who can afford a pricey hardware dongle versus those who write code voluntarily is, frankly, insulting. Hey, I get paid too, and I hope to continue. (There is my food addiction for which I need a daily fix. Pushers like Kroger and Safeway don't sell their Coke for free.) But I also do a lot in my spare time ... things that I want to do ... things that maybe zBoss doesn't want to pay time for. (Things where neither of us really see a biz case in the near enough term.)

Someone is going to chime in and tell me I can get a guest system at some IBM-funded site. Cool. I know that. My friend knows that too. He already has such service. So do I. But there are limits on that use. Neither of us are any more inclined to do 100% of our mainframe development using guest "z" access than we are to do 100% of our PC developement using cloudware. Would you do differently? The full range of options is essential, even for the non-free developments. (Ghasp! I use personal systems to help with the work I do for my boss. So it cuts both ways.)

Whining or Wise? (In other words, do I have a point?)

Yes, there is a point to this rambling. Whether through guest IDs or Hercules or zPDT or (careful! get this cleared with your boss first!) use of the company's mainframe, we need more open source. People like my friend (and me!) need more and better means of doing what we do. The first unfettered sharing of software happened in the mainframe world. So ... let's do it again! But we need more hardware, more "available to the hacker" hardware. (Maybe if they would license z/VM on Hercules? I'm just sayin.)

IBM should be shown how much they stand to gain from better hardware pricing. Supporting their circle of biz partners, sure. But don't shut out the volunteers. The computing public (such as the fine readers of this journal) must let them know. The high end hackers need more support.

People ... Linux lives. Linux on the mainframe is a major factor, growing daily. Combine it with z/VM and you have a virtualization platform extreme value, largely unknown (though documented) and largely untapped. But aside from the virtual, "Linux on z" is robust, reliable, scalable, serviceable, and a hot performer.

There will be a VM (and Linux) Workshop again this year. It's been 13 years since the last such workshop. Remember Y2K? The last VM Workshop was before that. For reasons that I won't bore you with here, in those days VM/ESA was being trounced like a two-digit year. Now, of course, the sun is shining and z/VM is popular again. It hosts Linux so exceedingly well. Therefore, the workshop is the "VM and Linux Workshop".

At this workshop, there may be a few zPDTs. (I'm not counting on it.) There may be some Hercules. There will be demonstration of Linux on z and especially of Linux on z/VM, and many applications on that. And there will be lots of free software, CDs and DVDs given out like donuts to cops. (They'll serve coffee too.) Y'all come.

-- R;