IBM Doubles Down on Linux With New Mainframe

IBM announced new Linux-only mainframe systems to further tap into the fastest-growing operating system in the industry.

IBM mainframe

Deepening its investment in Linux, IBM announced new Linux-only mainframe systems, a significant contribution of mainframe code to the open-source community and support for a new Open Mainframe Project.

Today, at LinuxCon in Seattle, IBM introduced two Linux mainframe servers—called LinuxONE—designed for the new application economy and hybrid cloud era.

LinuxONE is a new portfolio of hardware, software and services solutions, providing two distinct Linux systems for large enterprises and midsize businesses. LinuxONE Emperor is based on the IBM z13 mainframe. The system is capable of analyzing transactions in real time and can be used to help prevent fraud as it is occurring. It can scale up to 8,000 virtual machines or thousands of containers. LinuxONE Rockhopper, an entry into the portfolio, is designed for clients and emerging markets seeking the speed, security and availability of the mainframe but in a smaller package.

"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," Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM Systems, said in a statement. "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."

Charles King, president and principal analyst at Pund-IT, said: "Linux saved IBM's life in the 1990s. Though the company is in far different and better shape now than it was then, recent developments, including the new LinuxONE solutions, suggest IBM hoping to capture similarly dynamic benefits from its work with today's open-source community."

IBM will enable open-source and industry tools and software, including Apache Spark, Docker, Node.js, MongoDB, MariaDB, PostgreSQL and Chef on IBM z Systems to provide enterprises with choice and flexibility for hybrid cloud deployments. 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 strong community of developers.

"One of the most significant things in this announcement is that Canonical is supporting z Systems with their Ubuntu Linux, which is the most popular Linux distribution among developers today," Ross Mauri, general manager of IBM z Systems, told eWEEK. "With Ubuntu available on z, we can tap into the 20 million-plus developers that are out there today. In addition to that, there are a lot of tools that are going to be available now, such as tools for analytics like Apache Spark. Also things like Node.js, MongoDB, MariaDB, Postgres and Chef. The main open-source tools that developers use to write applications or to manage applications are now going to be available on z."

In short, IBM is going all-in on Linux on the mainframe, Mauri said. Today one-third of IBM's clients worldwide are running Linux on their mainframes, and 27 percent of all mainframe capacity installed worldwide is Linux, he added.

The complexity and demand of modern systems have grown to a point, exacerbated by the explosion of mobile and social and the desire to use real-time analytics and the cloud, where enterprises are requiring more sophisticated systems with even greater security, Mauri said.

"To entice Linux buyers to z Systems, IBM is now repositioning the mainframe as a traditional run-the-business enterprise server—as well as an 'open-server' environment," said Joe Clabby, co-founder of Clabby Analytics. "The company is focusing on the technological advantages of z Systems, demonstrating a new commitment to the Linux development community, and simplifying pricing in order to overcome the instantiated 'x86-is-cheaper' buyer objections. IBM is doing this under the auspices of a new z System brand known as IBM LinuxONE, a highly integrated portfolio of z Systems hardware, software and services that is designed to make Linux on z irresistibly compelling."