​LinuxONE: IBM's new Linux mainframes

IBM is not just introducing new mainframes, but a new way of paying for on premises big iron that makes mainframes cheaper than they've even before.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

SEATTLE -- At LinuxCon, IBM launched LinuxONE, a new pair of IBM mainframes along with Linux and open-source software and services. These new systems are the LinuxONE Emperor, which built on the IBM z13 mainframe and its z13 CPU, and its little brother, Rockhopper, which uses the older z12 processor.

IBM's new LinuxONE mainframes aren't only powerful, they're very affordable.
IBM claims that LinuxONE Emperor is capable of scaling up to 8,000 virtual machines or tens of thousands of containers and that's more than any other single Linux system. LinuxONE Rockhopper is an entry-level mainframe. It's designed for clients and emerging markets seeking mainframe speed, security and availability but for a smaller price-tag.

The z13 mainframe series can hold up to 10 TBs of memory. Its 8-core z13 CPU can run up to 5GHz. On IBM benchmarks, a loaded LinuxONE could perform 30-billion Representational State Transfer (RESTful) transactions a day using Node.js and MongoDB in Docker containers. In brief, these are spectacularly speedy systems.

IBM also states that the LinuxONE are the most secure Linux systems ever with advanced encryption features built into both the hardware and software to help keep customer data and transactions confidential and secure. This is done with dedicated crypto processors and cards so your company can handle millions of transactions per second securely.

LinuxONE isn't just a new use of hardware. IBM has enabled key open source and industry software for LinuxONE and IBM z Systems. This includes Apache Spark, Node.js, MongoDB, MariaDB, PostgreSQL and Chef. These technologies work seamlessly on the mainframe just as they do with other platforms, requiring no special skills and with compelling performance advantages.

Is that really true? You can see for yourself. IBM, in partnership with Marist College and Syracuse University's School of Information Studies will host clouds that provide developers access to a virtual IBM LinuxONE at no cost. IBM will also create a special cloud for independent software providers (ISVs) hosted at IBM sites in Dallas, Beijing, and Boeblingen, that provide application vendors access and a free trial to LinuxONE resources to port, test and benchmark new applications.

That's nice you might say, but I can't afford a mainframe. Think again.

Ross Mauri, IBM's General Manager of z Systems, said in a LinuxCon keynote speech, that LinuxONE comes with a new financing model. With this you can have a LinuxONE Emperor or Rockhopper on site but, like a public cloud, you'll only pay for the resources you use.

In an interview, Mauri added, "You can still buy or lease a mainframe. The elastic pricing is meant mostly for emergencing markets and service providers. IBM will work with existing customers who want to move to the new elastic pricing model."

Why would customers who already own or lease mainframes want to do that? Mauri explained, "With a Rockhopper and elastic pricing, this is the least expensive entry option ever for a mainframe."

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