Suppliers deny Air NZ mainframe Linux pain

IT suppliers left on the sidelines by Air New Zealand's move to implement Linux on an IBM mainframe were playing down the impact on them last week.

IT suppliers left on the sidelines by Air New Zealand’s move to implement Linux on an IBM mainframe were playing down the impact on them last week.

Microsoft and Sun are key suppliers to the airline, and systems integrator Gen-i plays a major support role. Microsoft looks to be the loser from the deal, with 150 Windows NT servers being replaced by a zSeries mainframe with a Linux partition. Four thousand Exchange clients could also be making way for open source email software.

Microsoft New Zealand wasn’t commenting officially on the deal last week, but denied an IBM claim that a Microsoft team had been convened to combat the Linux move.

Doubt has been cast on whether the deal does mean the demise of the Exchange clients but attempts to confirm that with IBM and Air New Zealand were unsuccessful. IBM’s press release on the deal states that the Linux deployment will allow the Exchange clients to be retired.

According to Microsoft, Sun stands to be the loser from the deal, while Microsoft suffers only “collateral damage”. Last month the head of New Zealand Sun agent SolNet, Mark Botherway, conceded the company had lost business with Air New Zealand when the airline decided to outsource with IBM, and that the airline was now burdened with two sets of IT infrastructure which it would need to reconcile.

But SolNet’s northern manager, John Hanna, said last week that it was Microsoft that had been dealt a blow by the Linux deal.

“Air New Zealand’s move is abolutely sound,” Hanna says. “It hasn’t impacted Sun’s servers. We’re very supportive of Air New Zealand about this.”

According to Hanna, the airline is merely making use of spare capacity on the mainframe.

Sun’s regional head, Jay Puri (pictured right), speaking during a visit to Auckland, is sceptical of the move.

“Linux on the mainframe is not technically sound but Air New Zealand has made the right directional move away from NT.”

Gen-i head Garth Biggs isn’t willing to talk about the deal without clearance from the airline. Biggs is treading warily after copping flak in June for questioning support structures for some open source products. According to Air New Zealand acting CIO Andrew Care, Gen-i has itself been proposing Linux-based solutions for the airline’s IT needs.

While not commenting on the Air New Zealand deal, Biggs says Gen-i “has had a substantial amount of Linux experience for some time”.

IDC New Zealand analyst Mike Cranna says the deal “reminds potential clients there are alternatives to the Microsoft model”.

“The Linux story continues its slow but steady path,” Cranna says, with New Zealand having the third highest regional adoption rate behind Australia and Taiwan, which leads.

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Tags Air New Zealand

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