‘Linux-Only’ Mainframe Debuts, IBM Doubles Down on Open Source

IBM today announced a significant expansion of the mainframe’s strategy of embracing open source-based technologies and open communities. The company disclosed it is shipping two Linux mainframe servers – called LinuxONE – which the company brands as “the most secure Linux servers in the industry.” The company also announced it is ramping up its support for open source offerings on its mainframe systems.

LinuxONE, a new portfolio of hardware, software and services solutions, provides two distinct Linux systems for large enterprises and mid-size businesses. LinuxONE Emperor, based on the IBM z13, is an advanced Linux system with what IBM claims is “the fastest processor in the industry.” The system can scale up to 8,000 virtual machines or thousands of containers. The portfolio includes LinuxONE Rockhopper, designed for clients and emerging markets seeking the speed, security and availability of the mainframe but in a smaller package.

IBM’s LinuxONE systems, available starting today, include advanced encryption features built into both the hardware and software. Protected-key, available on LinuxONE, provides enhanced security over clear-key technology and offers up-to 28X improved performance over standard secure-key technology, IBM said.

As part of the announcement, IBM launched a LinuxONE Developer Cloud to provide open access to the development community. The cloud acts as a virtual R&D engine for the creation, testing and piloting of emerging applications including testing linkages to engagement systems, mobile applications and hybrid cloud applications.

IBM also said it also intends to enable deployment of open source and industry tools and software -- including Apache Spark, Docker, Node.js, MongoDB, MariaDB, PostgreSQL and Chef -- on IBM z Systems. Canonical and IBM also announced plans to create an Ubuntu distribution for LinuxONE and z Systems, making the capabilities of the mainframe accessible to Ubuntu’s developer community. Canonical plans to distribute Ubuntu for LinuxONE and z Systems, adding a third Linux distribution. SUSE and Red Hat already support distribution. Canonical also plans to support KVM for the mainframe.

"Fifteen years ago IBM surprised the industry by putting Linux on the mainframe, and today more than a third of IBM mainframe clients are running Linux,” said Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM Systems. “We are deepening our commitment to the open community by combining the best of the open world with most advanced system in the world in order to help clients embrace new mobile and hybrid cloud workloads. Building on the success of Linux on the mainframe, we continue to push the limits beyond the capabilities of commodity servers that are not designed for security and performance at extreme scale."

IBM also said it is enabling the new LinuxONE systems to be provisioned as a virtual machine through the open standards-based KVM hypervisor, just like any Linux server. SUSE, a leading distributor of Linux, will provide initial support for KVM for the mainframe.

IBM also announced what it calls the new “Open Mainframe Project,” formed by the Linux Foundation. The effort includes nearly a dozen organizations across academia, government and corporate sectors to advance development and adoption of Linux on the mainframe. IBM is contributing mainframe code that includes IT predictive analytics that constantly monitor for unusual system behavior and help prevent issues from turning into failures. The code can be used by developers to build similar sense and respond resiliency capabilities on other systems.

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