Does your organization run .NET applications? It is possible now to run them on the System z under SUSE Linux. It’s not exactly running Windows on the z; more like a backdoor approach to Windows.
The trick revolves around SUSE Linux’s Mono extension, details here. In short, Mono is an open development project sponsored by Novell with the goal of developing an open source version of Microsoft’s .NET development platform. With Mono, Novell hopes to enable Linux developers to build and deploy cross-platform .NET applications. You can find more on Mono here.
Microsoft’s ASP.NET is a framework for building dynamic web sites, web applications, and web services. The .NET framework is the successor of Microsoft’s Active Server Pages (ASP). Here is the official Microsoft ASP.NET website.
Mono today is a complete, up-to-date Linux (open source) implementation of an ASP.NET application server that runs on the x86 and System z platforms. In effect, Mono is a virtual machine for .NET. Using Mono running on SUSE Linux on the System z, organizations can bring .NET workloads onto the System z. SUSE Linux people report that Microsoft’s reaction to this development has been ambivalent. That’s downright positive; I wouldn’t have been surprised if Microsoft went ballistic.
Maybe that’s because nobody is claiming Mono brings Windows to the System z. That will take a lot more work and actual cooperation from Microsoft. Key elements of the .NET framework, including the library and execution environment, called Common Language Infrastructure (CLI), and the ECMAScript language specification, have been standardized by ECMA International.
Still, Mono and SUSE Linux on the z may provide a big boost for organizations that want to consolidate .NET applications scattered around their organization on the System z. This would bring the same benefits they get from consolidating other non-traditional workloads on the System z; namely cost savings, management efficiency, increased reliability, and better performance.
Large organizations can have hundreds of .NET applications, maybe thousands. Getting the owners of these applications to give them up for consolidation will be an internal political battle, but the potential savings probably are sufficient to bribe the owners into complying. Organizations already are consolidating tons of Java applications on Linux on the z, why not .NET?
At a recent System z analyst briefing, Novell reported at least one System z customer in North America was running a NET application through SUSE/Mono. Outside North America, more System z shops have been trying it, seemingly with success.
Apparently, it is not too difficult. SUSE Linux people reported that over half of the .NET applications ran on the System z under SUSE/Mono with no change. How much change you will have to make to your application, it seems, depends on how closely you adhered to the standards in the first place. Expect some work will be required.
Before .NET on the System z takes off data center managers are going to want to see a few more Mono on z successes. The opportunity certainly is appealing, but they will need evidence that this really works.