Run .NET applications on the System z

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.

2 Responses to “Run .NET applications on the System z”

  1. Joseph Hill Says:

    Nice piece. It’s great to see all of the excitement around the opportunity Mono creates for moving ASP.NET applications to the mainframe.

    I would just point out that there is a tool for measuring how easy it would be to run a given .NET application on Mono, called the Mono Migration Analyzer (MoMA) – http://mono-project.com/MoMA

    It runs against the compiled application, so if you have an application you’re curious if you could move the the mainframe, you can just run the analyzer against it, and if it shows any issues, you can take that report to the application’s developers and they’ll have a roadmap to start from.

  2. Ed Bride Says:

    Today’s economic conditions are driving many organizations to consider migrating mainframe applications and data to Windows as part of a broader modernization strategy, according to Dale Vecchio, Gartner Research vice president. While migrating workload is a growing alternative, a tremendous amount of agility can be gained by reusing existing mainframe applications in service-oriented architecture, according to a Vecchio quote in a press release by Alchemy Solutions. “The ability to leverage proven functionality, before and after it’s migrated, is a great way to increase the tangible benefits from an enterprise’s modernization strategy.”

    Some companies are accomplishing this by using NeoServices, from Alchemy Solutions’ family of modernize-as-you-migrate software that gives enterprises the ability to service-enable existing mainframe, as well as NeoKicks-based business logic, with no code changes. The idea is to enable a company’s proven mainframe assets to be leveraged in new initiatives like new portals, CRM and ERP applications, or new application development.

    So, the concept is real, not just theory.

    Dennis Blaine, SVP at integrator 5280 Solutions, says this sort of technology can help rein in the cost of managing and running mainframe-based legacy systems for their customers by migrating them to the Windows .NET environment. Once migrated, the value comes from extending and integrating these systems using Web services.

    On the development/productivity side, the idea is to avoid writing new code during the creation of services that leverage existing logic. Instead, NeoServices’ approach to development uses graphical flow modeling or “wiring” diagrams that allow the user to drag, drop and wire together various building blocks to compose a service. The approach is flexible so that the designer can either start with existing transactions and build “up” to form a service that combines elements of each transaction, or start with a specification of the desired service and design “down” to the transactions that provide the required information.

    Not to oversell (I work with Alchemy), the point seems relevant to this discussion (hello, Alan, it’s been a long time).

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