LinuxONE III Express

One of the best decisions IBM made was to bring Linux, a popular, highly capable, open source product to the Z. That was 20 years ago. OK, it was a little rough to start, at least for a novice Linux wannabe like me back then. The latest version, released in May 2021, LinuxONE III Express promises to be much more; offering hybrid cloud, containers, Red Hat Open Shift, plus all the Z’s classic strengths–scalability, reliability, performance, availability, security.

z15 T02

z15 T02 / LinuxONE III LT2

Let’s start with off-the-shelf innovative packages like LinuxONE. Here IBM starts with an open source system built on the z15 most recently, but it could also have the z14 or z13. DancingDinosaur recommends opting for the z15 or higher level machines when they become available at some point. 

As IBM puts it: the LinuxONE is an enterprise-grade platform with mainframe-class features built for hybrid cloud environments and modern businesses. According to the company, LinuxONE solutions are optimized for open-source architectures, especially Red Hat OpenShift, Kubernetes, and IBM Cloud Pak.

Let’s look at the LinuxONE III Express. According to Ross Mauri, GM of IBM’s Z and LinuxONE organization, the new solution is “designed to be an off-the-shelf option for startups, business partners, and ISVs, and it’s built to get clients up and running quickly. It can do that because it is using tested Z components from the processor, Linux software, and the frame itself.

When Mauri says “off-the-shelf,” he means it. The LinuxONE III Express is a pre-configured system based on the LinuxONE Model LT2 that IBM introduced a year ago. The new solution, designated III, comes with a set number of cores (13), memory (1280GB), networking cards and other features, with price and configurations adjusted according to the number of cores and memory activated.

For example, the base price of $135,000, as quoted by IBM, delivers a solution with four cores and 384GB of memory activated. However, “activated” doesn’t mean fixed forever, Mauri continued. Like other scalable IBM solutions, additional cores and memory can be activated with a simple microcode upgrade. This enables the system’s capabilities to keep pace with any organization’s evolving compute requirements.

IBM also has developed packages for specific scenarios and applications. These range from an implementation package of training and support for customers new to LinuxONE to packages designed for advanced virtualization workloads.

After seemingly endless strings of losing quarters, IBM finally appears to be generating positive quarterly revenue starting with, of all things, the Z and hybrid cloud. OK; it’s not every quarter but its some positive quarterly revenue, which beats strings of incessant losses.

So, is Z on a roll? Over the last year, it reports increased growth around the platform driven by new interest in IBM’s confidential computing capabilities and new workloads such as digital asset custody. It also reports  85 customers are actively engaged in planning or have a POC in progress with Red Hat OpenShift on Z and IBM Z and LinuxONE.

In fact, according to a recent report conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Deloitte, 74% of respondents believe the mainframe has long-term viability as a strategic platform for organizations.

IBM even sees benefits in the pandemic. COVID-19, it reports, has been a driver of accelerated workload growth on its platforms. Companies are facing new business challenges associated with changing employee and  consumer  behaviors, everything from work-at-home to increased volatility in financial trading and increased online retail transactions.

As a result, they are turning to Z to help manage that increased spike in business in a predictable, resilient and secured way. In fact, IBM reports that Z customers temporarily activated a total of over 4x more additional general purpose processor capacity via On/Off Capacity on Demand in 1Q 2021 compared to 1Q 2019 – enough additional temporary capacity to process up to 9.9 trillion more transactions.

The Z family is no longer for  big enterprises only. Startups too, like KodyPay and Ilara Health, and business partners like Cognition Foundry are turning to LinuxONE for its security and as a competitive differentiator for hybrid cloud. 

That’s why the IBM LinuxONE III Express comes with a new pricing model for Z hardware and Tailored Fit Pricing. Also  announced was co-location of IBM DS8910F Storage into the Z15 Model T02 frame. Time to look at Z again.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghostwriter. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his work at technologywriter.com.

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