IBM’s LinuxONE Mainframes – Rising to the Hybrid Cloud

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  January 27, 2016

Common among virtually all companies that enjoy long-lived success is the ability to evolve products to meet the changing needs of customers and markets. But that can be nettlesome in the high tech industry, where worship of the new reaches ecclesiastical extremes. However, it can be achieved, and for proof of that one need look no further than IBM’s mainframe solutions.

The mainframe family line officially began with the IBM System/360 (S/360) that was introduced in 1964. Though today’s Z System solutions are massively different than those early mainframes, they continue to share common and philosophical characteristics, including muscular and reliable hardware components, some of the industry’s most sophisticated enterprise software and state of the art transactional capabilities.

But today’s Z Systems are also fully modern, particularly in their ability to support the growing number of organizations that prefer open source solutions, including Linux operating environments, middleware and applications. In fact, last October IBM launched a new family of Linux mainframe systems – LinuxONE – to fully address the needs and preferences of those customers. The new LinuxONE features and capabilities announced this week find IBM, as it has always done, pushing the mainframe evolutionary envelope ever further.

Made for the hybrid cloud

The biggest changes to LinuxONE revolve around enhancing the platform for hybrid cloud computing environments. To that end, IBM is optimizing both its Cloudant enterprise grade NoSQL database and its Strongloop tools for developing APIs for the LinuxONE family. As a result, customers should enjoy considerable benefits in developing, deploying and managing applications for hybrid cloud environments, especially since they won’t have to convert languages to do so.

IBM is also expanding LinuxONE’s software options. These include support for Google’s Go programming language, new work with SuSE in OpenStack technologies (making SuSE tools the preferred solutions for managing public, private and hybrid cloud environments running on LinuxONE systems) and supporting Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux distribution and cloud tool sets, making Ubuntu a third operating environment (along with SuSE and RedHat) LinuxONE customers can choose.

In addition, IBM announced compelling new LinuxONE speed and processing capabilities in refreshed LinuxONE family members (the massive Emperor and smaller Rockhopper systems). The company also demonstrated that a LinuxONE Emperor system is capable of supporting up to 1 million Docker containers, a capability that should benefit businesses deploying LinuxONE in Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructures.

Finally, IBM announced that its Open Platform (IOP) will be freely available for LinuxONE customers in March. IOP extends across a broad range of Apache-based tools and capabilities for big data and analytics, including Apache Spark, Apache HBase and Apache Hadoop 2.7.1. IBM has also optimized the Open Managed Runtime (OPR) project for LinuxONE.

Final analysis

Since IBM became the first Tier 1 vendor to formally support Linux in 1998, the company has steadily expanded its use of the OS and support for numerous open source projects. But last year’s launch of LinuxONE marked something of a turning point, both for IBM and the position of Linux as an enterprise-class operating environment.

The decision to fully develop and support an all-Linux mainframe solution should prove to doubters (if there are any left) that Linux and its business customers are here to stay. Linux currently represents over half of the Z System workloads IBM sells annually and continues to grow at a healthy pace in businesses and industries of every kind.

Linux arrived at IBM when the mainframe was well into its fourth decade but was an important reason that the company’s 50th anniversary was truly golden. If IBM continues to actively evolve its LinuxONE solutions as it has done since their October introduction, this newest solution family is likely to become a key component and driver of the mainframe’s second half century of success.

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