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Virtual Linux Could Be Answer To Costly Data Centers

Lenovo and Novell showed off the first Linux ThinkPad, and Hewlett-Packard pledged its support for Debian Linux. Yet despite the show of big-name vendor support at last week's LinuxWorld conference, the biggest buzz involved the prospect of Linux virtualization taking over more of the data center.

Guru Vasudeva, enterprise chief architect at Nationwide Mutual Insurance, said during one presentation that his company plans to consolidate 600 Linux servers as virtual machines on two IBM mainframes by year's end.

The move will cut electricity use, data center space, and server costs, amounting to projected savings of $15 million in the next three years, Vasudeva said. Approximately 350 of those servers already have been consolidated. Before the project began, 78% of the company's 5,000 servers were using 10% or less of their capacity, he said.

IBM's and Oracle's pricing schemes work to Nationwide's benefit, Vasudeva said. Neither vendor points it out, but there are significant software license savings if you run their databases and middleware in virtual machines on mainframe processors. Software licenses are calculated based on the number of processors used, whether they're mainframe CPUs or Intel. "But mainframe processors are more efficient in how they manage the workload," Vasudeva said.

Security concerns about virtual machines were "addressed in depth" on Nationwide's mainframe configuration thanks to IBM's logical partitioning of the underlying hardware resources, known as LPARs, he said. Nationwide divides a mainframe running Linux virtual machines into four or five hardware units.

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