IBM’s New LinuxONE Emperor 4 – Big Blue’s Big Green Bets

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  September 14, 2022

When it comes to data centers, energy efficiency is a broad and complex topic. That is largely due to the number of server, system and facilities components that consume electricity. But it also includes less tangible issues, including fluctuating utilities costs, affordability of local energy sources and concerns about environmental degradation and global warming.

IBM has been a central player in these issues for decades though the company has taken a number of different paths that lead to or result in enhancing compute performance while maximizing energy efficiency. IBM’s new 4th generation LinuxONE server, the Emperor 4, shows how the company is continuing and advancing this process.

Why data center energy efficiency matters

As enterprises continue moving toward “digital first” strategies, with traditional business functions supplemented or replaced by automated compute processes, executives are also sensitive about the impact increasing digitization is having on their bottom lines. Powering digitization involves far more than simply plugging in servers and networks. Housing, cooling and maintaining those systems requires serious space and money. If your CTO makes the wrong choices, your business can be on the hook for substantial, unnecessary costs for years.

At the same time, business leaders are as concerned about environmental sustainability as anyone else. According to an IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study, 40 percent of the CEOs surveyed said that one of their highest priorities is increasing sustainability in the next two to three years. However, 51 percent also cited sustainability as one their greatest challenges in that same timeframe due to hurdles, including a lack of data insights, unclear ROI and technology barriers.

Interestingly, many of these are not new issues. IT vendors including IBM have been pressing the frontiers of system and data center efficiency for nearly two decades. However, in the past most organizations did not seem to have the sense of urgency about sustainability that many express today. Given the rise in extreme climate events, like recent heat waves and the resulting strains on energy production worldwide, IBM’s LinuxONE Emperor 4 is becoming available as a substantial number of businesses are investigating, embracing and pursuing sustainability efforts.

The LinuxONE Emperor 4

Since scaling business with the help of modern infrastructure can be a barrier to reaching sustainability goals, how can IBM’s new LinuxONE solution help sustainability-focused enterprises?

First and foremost, the IBM LinuxONE Emperor 4 is an engineered scale-out-on-scale-up system that enables clients to run workloads at sustained high density and increase capacity by turning on unused cores without increasing energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Since the system is designed for rebalancing resources with on-demand capacity, workloads can be scaled-up and scaled-out dynamically and non-disruptively. Clients can also track energy consumption on Emperor 4 with IBM Instana Observability, adding insights into their sustainability and ROI goals.

The new solution also continues IBM’s longstanding leadership in system consolidation. As an example, the company noted that consolidating Linux workloads on five IBM LinuxONE Emperor 4 systems instead of running them on comparable x86 servers under similar conditions can reduce energy consumption by 75%, data center space requirements by 50%, and the owners CO2 footprint by over 850 metric tons annually.

The LinuxONE Emperor 4 also incorporates many of the features of IBM Z16 mainframe introduced in April. For example, like the Z16 the new solution uses IBM’s Telum processors which support innovative artificial intelligence (AI), encryption and other capabilities on-chip. Plus, the IBM LinuxONE Emperor 4 protects data in use while also supporting end-to-end encryption for data at rest and in flight thus extending IBM’s cloud security leadership in confidential computing. In addition, the new solution supports IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Virtual Servers.

Built on IBM LinuxONE and running on IBM Cloud, Hyper Protect Virtual Servers provide customers complete authority over the encrypted data, workloads and encryption keys they have on IBM Cloud—not even IBM has access. The new system’s comprehensive data protection profile also underpins current and anticipated future cyber security protocols. IBM LinuxONE Emperor 4 with the Crypto Express 8S Adapter is designed to run CRYSTALS-Dilithium sign operations, algorithms that were among those selected as part of a post-quantum cryptographic standardization process by NIST.

Finally, the IBM LinuxONE Emperor 4 supports numerous Linux and Red Hat OpenShift-certified workloads, including data serving, core banking and digital assets, and is supported by IBM Ecosystem partners, such as Clari5IllumioMetacoMongoDBNGINXNth ExceptionFiorano SoftwareFujitsu LimitedPennantSQ SolutionsSysdig, and Temenos.. As a result of these and other open-source features, teams of developers can deliver portable and agile cloud native solutions without having to learn a new operating system.

Final analysis

IBM’s LinuxONE Emperor 4 arrives at an interesting time for the company, enterprise customers and broader markets. Coming nearly a quarter century after IBM announced it would support Linux on its flagship mainframe systems, the new solution can be viewed as a notable achievement in IBM’s longstanding support for open-source technologies. Offering most of the same forward-thinking capabilities and features as latest generation Z16 mainframes, IBM’s LinuxONE Emperor 4 easily qualifies as the most powerful, most scalable and most secure Linux-based system ever produced.

However, at the same time, the LinuxONE Emperor 4 reflects IBM’s clear focus on sustainability and on providing its enterprise customers solutions that reliably complement and advance their sustainability strategies and goals. Arriving as individuals, organizations and governments around the world are becoming increasingly concerned with and supportive of sustainable products and processes, IBM’s LinuxONE Emperor 4 qualifies as a big green bet that could pay off for everyone involved.

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