IBM Pulls From the Past to Prepare IT for the Future

LinuxONE brings the flexibility of Linux to the stability of the mainframe.
Posted August 18, 2015

Rob Enderle

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Back when I first started in tech, IBM was really the only major power in the industry. Their mainframe technology was dominant, and it had a lot going for it. It was very secure, incredibly reliable (for its time), and you leased it so that you never felt the full cost of the technology in one quarter or year. It fell off because it lacked flexibility and there was a huge push to put computing at the edges.

But things have gone full circle with the Web and cloud services; computing has become centralized again as the cost of computing at the edges just couldn’t compete with the economies of scale of cloud service. The opportunity arose to once again revisit the kind of solution the mainframe represented, but it couldn’t have the limitations that old mainframes had.

IBM stepped up to this challenge this week with LinuxONE, or Linux without limits, a blend of the things that made the mainframe great and the new flexibility requirements in configuration, software and financing. They are positioning their z Systems mainframe platform as the new power in centralized cloud computing platforms.


Using penguins as a theme (Emperor for their premier offering and Rockhopper for their entry level) IBM has bracketed what they see as the market requirement for system flexibility. Emperor provides the greatest flexibility, scalability, performance and trust for business-critical Linux applications. It has the greatest capacity range and no top end, so it can be expanded when and how needed. Rockhopper is an entry system that starts far smaller and provides a solution for a smaller company or business unit.


This tool has impressive breadth as both allow customers wide latitude in picking distribution, hypervisor, runtime, management tools, as well as their choice in databases and analytics tools. IBM has added Ubuntu to its longstanding support of RedHat and SUSE Linux distros. Initial coverage on hypervisors includes PR/SM, z/VM, and KVM. Languages include Python, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, R, Go, Scala, Clojure, PHP, Java, OCaml and Erlang. Runtimes include Node.js, Apache HTTP Web Server, Apache Tomcat, OpenJDK, LLVM, GCCGO, Zend and Erlang native compiler. Management options include WAVE, IBM Cloud Manager, UrbanCode, OpenStack, Docker, Chef, Puppet and VMware vRealize Automation. Databases include Oracle, DB2 LUW, MariaDB, MongoD and PostgreSQL. Analytics support includes Hadoop, BigInsights, DB2 BLU and Spark.


Equally impressive are the deployment options, which include single platform and multi-platform, on premises and off premises, and multiple mixed cloud environments, all using a common toolset.


But the most impressive is likely the pricing and payment options, starting with a pay-per-use model with no upfront payment needed, fixed monthly or quarterly payments and variable costing which scales (up and down) based on usage (title for the hardware in these environments remains with IBM). A second pricing model uses a 36-month fixed lease with 36-month usage contract but offers a right to return after one year. Finally, there is a per-core rental model where you can order what you need when you need it, add licenses as needed, decrease licenses or cancel with a 30-day notice.

Scale Out

Then we have the scale out and scale up capabilities, which show the true power of the offering. It supports up to eight thousand virtual servers in a single system with tens of thousands of containers, tens of thousands of concurrent users, and the ability to run test, development, and production in a single system. As you would expect, there is a significant focus on speed with IBM’s quickest processor, biggest I/O pipe, up to 10TB of memory and four levels of cache, all to deliver a sub-second end user response time at full load. Designed to run at 100% utilization, the LinuxONE platform is designed to spin up containers and virtual servers in minutes, automatically providing physical resources as needed in seconds through automatic resources provisioning and reallocation.

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