Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gaming and Mainframing on a Playstation 3 ?

I guess it was a little stream of consciousness that made me cough up this title.

What's it about ? I was just reading the main article of zJournal : 'The State of IBM Mainframe Emulation' by Philip Smith III. You should really read it to get a comprehensive view on this matter. There has been much ado (I must be in a literary mood) about mainframe emulation lately. Also Pete Clarke is voicing his concern on this issue in his comment on z/VSE in the same zJournal issue.

What's the problem : IBM has not prolongued its agreement with Fundamental Software that delivers FLEX-ES, the main (Linux based) software platform for mainframe emulation. What are the consequences ? Since IBM did not continue the agreement, no FLEX-ES systems can be sold since November 2006. "Simultaneously, IBM stopped licensing software on FLEX-based systems, so existing Fundamental customers can’t add IBM products to their systems. While commercial FLEX-ES customer machines will continue to run indefinitely, many small mainframe development shops have embraced FLEX solutions through IBM’s PartnerWorld for Developers (PWD) program—and these machines are controlled by a time-limited hardware dongle. When the dongle expires, FLEX-ES will no longer operate. For these sites, the clock is running, and finding an alternative is critical !"

Are there any alternatives ? Not really, the only 'safe' solution for the moment is buying a z9 BC, but that's actually quite expensive as you also have to buy external storage. Not really a choice for small developers. The not so safe and perhaps not so legal alternatives either are PSI and Hercules. Firstly IBM filed suit against PSI and the end of this doesn't seem to be in sight. You can find more information on this in Phil Payne's report on the case. Secondly, Hercules is a well known mainframe emulator (mainly on Linux) but IBM has never wanted to licence its operating systems on Hercules.

Another alternative, just a rumor for the moment, is that IBM might offer a low-end machine "perhaps using the IBM’s new Cell Broadband Engine (CBE) processor (...) It’s easy to imagine (if not easily implement) an emulator running under Linux or AIX on CBE-based hardware". What's the CBE processor ? It's IBM's 'game' processor that is used in Sony's Playstation 3 and that's also announced to be used in the mainframe (the 'IBM Gameframe'). And what do you know : you cannot only play games on a PS3, it can also run a complete Linux machine.
Hence the little twist of the mind that produced the title of this topic.

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