IBM has announced two mainframe computers under the LinuxONE branding that will eventually be able to run Canonical’s popular Ubuntu Linux operating system. This latest move is part of a near-30-year history of IBM running UNIX and, later, Linux-based operating systems on its hardware products. IBM’s first UNIX-like product for its mainframes AIX/370 appeared way back in 1988. While the ability to run Ubuntu on a mainframe may have been the news that attracted attention, the announcement really has several parts.
First, there are two LinuxOne mainframe models. The LinuxONE Emperor is designed for large enterprises. IBM claims it can run up to 8,000 virtual servers, tens of thousands of containers. and 30 billion RESTful web interactions per day supporting millions of active users. The Emperor can have up to 141 processors, 10 terabytes of shared memory, and 640 dedicated I/O (input/output) processors. And IBM claims it can provide all this with a cost that’s half that of a public cloud infrastructure solution.
On the lower end, the LinuxONE Rockerhopper model is an entry-level mainframe aimed at mid-sized businesses which can be upgraded to an Emperor system. Both LinuxOne systems support KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) with the initial work being done by SUSE (best known for tis SUSE Linux distribution).
Next, IBM and Canonical announced “plans to create an Ubuntu distribution for LinuxONE and z Systems.” Note that Ubuntu is not currently available for the LinuxONE mainframes. However, both Red Hat Linux and SUSE Linux are currently supported. IBM also announced its role in forming the Open Mainframe Project along with founding members ADP, CA Technologies, IBM, and SUSE. The Open Mainframe Foundation is a non-profit Linux Foundation Collaborative project.
Finally, IBM announced the LinuxONE developer cloud, which gives developers access to a virtual IBM LinuxONE mainframe. Marist College and Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies plan to host developer clouds that will be free to use. IBM didn’t indicate if this free access will be restricted to, for example, developers at educational institutions. IBM itself plans to create developer clouds for independent software vendors at at IBM sites in Dallas, Beijing, and Boeblingen, Germany that will provide “free trials.”
IBM’s continued expanding support of Linux and Open Source projects makes sense given that these platforms and tools provide much of today’s connected infrastructure. And, the move away from in-house servers to cloud-based ones is a direct threat to IBM’s mainframe business. The company’s claim that it can provide a fast, reliable, and secure alternative at half the cost of cloud-based solutions is bound to get the attention of those with large-scale projects who want to control costs.