IBM LinuxONE and Open Mainframe Project Expand the z System

Meet the new IBM z System; called LinuxONE Emperor (named after the Emperor Penguin.) It is a z13 running only Linux. Check out the full announcement here.

Primary LinuxOne emperor

Courtesy of IBM, LinuxONE Emperor, the newest z System

DancingDinosaur is excited by several aspects of this announcement:  IBM is establishing, in conjunction with the Linux Foundation, an Open Mainframe Project; the company is breaking with its traditional mainframe pricing model; it also is putting KVM and Ubuntu on the machine; and it is offering a smorgasbord of app-dev options, including some of the sexiest in the industry today. DancingDinosaur never believed it would refer to a mainframe as sexy (must be time to retire).

Along with LinuxONE Emperor IBM announced an entry dedicated Linux machine, the LinuxONE Rockhopper. (BTW; notice the new playfulness in IBM’s product naming.) Rockhopper appears to be very similar to what IBM used to call a Business Class z, although IBM has stepped away from that designation. The closest you may get to a z13 business class machine may be LinuxONE Rockhopper. Rockhopper, according to IBM, is designed for clients and emerging markets seeking the speed, security and availability of the mainframe but in a smaller package.

The biggest long term potential impact from the announcement may come out of the Open Mainframe Project. Like many of IBM’s community project initiatives, IBM is starting by seeding the open community with z code, in effect creating the beginning of an open z System machine.  IBM describes this as the largest single contribution of mainframe code from IBM to the open source community. A key part of the mainframe code contributions will be the z’s IT predictive analytics that constantly monitor for unusual system behavior and help prevent issues from turning into failures. In effect, IBM is handing over zAware to the open source community. It had already announced intentions to port zAware to Linux on z early this year so it might as well make it fully open. The code, notes IBM, can be used by developers to build similar sense-and-respond resiliency capabilities for other systems.

The Open Mainframe Project, being formed with the Linux Foundation, will involve a collaboration of nearly a dozen organizations across academia, government, and corporate sectors to advance development and adoption of Linux on the mainframe. It appears that most of the big mainframe ISVs have already signed on. DancingDinosaur, however, expressed concern that this approach brings the possibility of branching the underlying functionality between z and Linux versions. IBM insists that won’t happen since the innovations would be implemented at the software level, safely insulated from the hardware. And furthermore, should there emerge an innovation that makes sense for the z System, maybe some innovation around the zAware capabilities, the company is prepared to bring it back to the core z.

The newly announced pricing should also present an interesting opportunity for shops running Linux on z.  As IBM notes: new financing models for the LinuxONE portfolio provide flexibility in pricing and resources that allow enterprises to pay for what they use and scale up quickly when their business grows. Specifically, for IBM hardware and software, the company is offering a pay-per-use option in the form of a fixed monthly payment with costs scaling up or down based on usage. It also offers per-core pricing with software licenses for designated cores. In that case you can order what you need and decrease licenses or cancel on 30 days notice. Or, you can rent a LinuxONE machine monthly with no upfront payment.  At the end of the 36-month rental (can return the hardware after 1 year) you choose to return, buy, or replace. Having spent hours attending mainframe pricing sessions at numerous IBM conferences this seems refreshingly straightforward. IBM has not yet provided any prices to analysts so whether this actually is a bargain remains to be seen. But at least you have pricing option flexibility you never had before.

The introduction of support for both KVM and Ubuntu on the z platform opens intriguing possibilities.  Full disclosure: DancingDinosaur was an early Fedora adopter because he could get it to run on a memory-challenged antiquated laptop. With the LinuxONE announcement Ubuntu has been elevated to a fully z-supported Linux distribution. Together IBM and Canonical are bringing a distribution of Linux incorporating Ubuntu’s scale-out and cloud expertise on the IBM z Systems platform, further expanding the reach of both. Ubuntu combined with KVM should make either LinuxONE machine very attractive for OpenStack-based hybrid cloud computing that may involve thousands of VMs. Depending on how IBM ultimately prices things, this could turn into an unexpected bargain for Linux on z data centers that want to save money by consolidating x86 Linux servers, thereby reducing the data center footprint and cutting energy costs.  LinuxONE Emperor can handle 8000 virtual servers in a single system, tens of thousands of containers.

Finally, LinuxONE can run the sexiest app-dev tools using any of the hottest open technologies, specifically:

  • Distributions: Red Hat, SuSE and Ubuntu
  • Hypervisors: PR/SM, z/VM, and KVM
  • Languages: Python, Perl, Ruby, Rails, Erlang, Java, Node.js
  • Management: WAVE, IBM Cloud Manager, Urban Code Openstack, Docker, Chef, Puppet, VMware vRealize Automation
  • Database: Oracle, DB2LUW, MariaDB, MongoDB, PostgreSQL
  • Analytics: Hadoop, Big Insights, DB2BLU and Spark

And run the results however you want: single platform, multi-platform, on-prem and off-prem, or multiple mixed cloud environments with a common toolset. Could a combination of LinuxONE alongside a conventional z13 be the mainframe data center you really want going forward?

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.

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3 Responses to “IBM LinuxONE and Open Mainframe Project Expand the z System”

  1. Syncsort Brings z System Integration Software to Open Source Tools | DancingDinosaur Says:

    […] z System data centers; Apache Kafka will be less familiar. DancingDinosaur noted Spark and others here, when LinuxOne was […]

  2. IBM Systems Sets 2016 Priorities | DancingDinosaur Says:

    […] z that the OpenPOWER initiative has started to produce. DancingDinosaur covered that announcement here. Hope they haven’t given up already.  Just have to remind myself to be patient; it took about a […]

  3. IBM Spotlights Blockchain and Hyperledger Fabric at IBM InterCONNECT | DancingDinosaur Says:

    […] LinuxONE, a dedicated z-based Linux system with as much security as any commercial platform is likely to have, should play a central role in blockchain networks. The machine also delivers all the itys the z is renowned for: scalability, availability, flexibility, manageability, and more. […]

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