Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Intoducing IBM LinuxONE

Just watch the short video below, it looks (and even sounds) like a Walt Disney movie but it's reality.

Since I was preparing a new issue of our z Systems eZine, I guess LinuxONE was an obvious choice to have an article about. So let me also share its content over here.

The hardware
In short, LinuxONE is a mainframe machine with only Linux. And when we look at the hardware there are two models : the Emperor and the Rockhopper. And yes, they are named after a couple of penguin species.

The largest model is based on the z13, that was announced last January and the Rockhopper is based on the z12 BC. Since e.g. the LinuxONE Emperor inherits the characteristics of the z13, you have a machine with a possible 141 Linux engines and 10TB of memory. Or as Ross Mauri (General Manager, z Systems, IBM) puts it : "8.000 virtual servers on an Emperor, hundreds of thousands of containers in one system (...) 5Ghz microprocessors, 320 channels for I/O and each channel has two dedicated power processors, it's an I/O monster, up to 10TB of memory, a huge set of cache (...)". As we all know, being an 'I/O monster' is one of the biggest assets of these machines. If you have the time, you can find Ross Mauri's pitch in a 30-minute youtube video you find over here.

The message that accompanies LinuxONE is based on three 'slogans'.

Let me clarify them a bit for you

Linux Your way
"IBM LinuxONE allows you to choose the Linux distribution, hypervisor, applications and databases, management tools, and services" (*). This is not only a valid statement for people already running Linux on mainframe but perhaps especially for people who are running Linux on other platforms for the moment.
At the operating system level, this means we need more Linux distributions, so IBM announced the support for Ubuntu as well. But even more important to pull Linux people into the mainframe world is that they can use a familiar hypervisor. That's why next to PR/SM and z/VM, LinuxONE also supports KVM as a hypervisor. This means that people used to work on x386 platform can now far more easily make the step towards mainframe without having that steep learning curve that was there before.
But what also intrigues me : when I look at the announcement of KVM on z Systems (ZP15-0359) it indicates that it does not only run on the LinuxONE but also on z13, zEC12 and zBC12. So that would be on IFLs next to e.g. z/OS. And it also support ECKD volumes on the DS8000.
Then talking about programming languages, development and databases, just let me give you an extensive list, to give you an idea of what's cooking underneath all this.
Programming Languages: Python, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, R Language, GO, Scala, Clojure, PHP, Java, oCaml, Erlang
Development & Build Runtime Environments:  Node.js, Apache HTTP Web Server, Apache Tomcat, OpenJDK, LLVM, GCCGO, Zend Framework, Erlang native compiler  
Cloud Management: IBM Wave, IBM Cloud Manager, IBM Urban Code, Openstack, Docker, Chef, Puppet, VMware vRealize Automation 
Database: Oracle, DB2 LUW, Cassandra, CouchDB, MySQL, MariaDB, MongoDB, PostgreSQL
Analytics Tools with IBM Big Insights (Hadoop), DB2 BLU and Spark
This really opens up a whole new world for us, who are used to z/OS, DB2 and CICS. But it's also becoming a large part of the future of the mainframe. Even if we have to discover an entire new world. So, fasten your seatbelts and let's go. !

Linux without Limits
"This is the second pillar of LinuxONE. Lightning fast response times and virtually unlimited scale gives your applications the premium Linux experience they deserve." I think I already touched upon this, when I quoted Ross Mauri earlier with his description of the possibilities of the Emperor. Scale out at its best. But there's also the value of Scale up : you can support "the largest business applications within a single system, without having to spread transactions and data over multiple servers".

Linux without Risk 
"Ensuring that your data and services are fully protected and available when and where your clients need them with the industry’s most secure and resilient Linux system."
I don't have to elaborate too much on this one either : we're talking about availability, business continuity and definitely also security : "The LinuxONE systems provide isolation at multiple levels - applications, containers, virtual servers and partitions, allow for full encryption of the data (...). They allow for end-to-end security, identity and access control to protect your clients and your business reputation".

Pricing : Elastic pricing
This elastic pricing is also described as 'Cloud on Premise'. You have a kind of monthly licensing for what you are using during a specific month. So, you don't buy the hardware, you order the hardware that you need, you order the software that you need, it's in your data center, you use it and you're billed on your monthly usage. Since pricing is always a very sensitive matter, I'll quote Ross Mauri again : "This is like cloud like pricing but on prem. It's for hardware and software, you order what you need, you pay for what you use. Your usage can go up, it can go down, it's metered, you pay by the month". But we all know IBM pricing is never that simple. So contact your IBM or BP representative if you want to get a clear picture on all the details.

IBM zAware and Open Mainframe Project from the Linux Foundation
One extra item I want to mention in this context is the Open Mainframe Project of the Linux Foundation. The Linux Foundation is a "nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux and collaborative development.  In collaboration with the Linux Foundation, IBM will support the Open Mainframe Project, a collaboration of nearly a dozen organizations across academia, government and corporate sectors to advance development and adoption of Linux on the mainframe".
Now what about IBM zAware ? Along with the z13, we saw already that similar to z/OS, support for the analysis of Linux images on mainframe was announced. Now IBM zAware is becoming available on the LinuxONE machines for native and guest Linux images. But what's more, the largest contribution of source code IBM is making to the open source community is actually IBM zAware. Open source developers will be able to add their own code to it.

LinuxONE Community Cloud for Developers and students for free
And finally : do you want to have a go at LinuxONE at no charge. Then you should head over to the LinuxONE Community Cloud : you can obtain a LinuxONE virtual server for testing and piloting emerging applications for evaluation purposes. As a developer or student you can get a 90 day trial that includes up to 2 virtual CPUs, 2 GB memory and 40 GB of storage!

Some reference material
  • IBM announcement of LinuxONE
  • Information about some Open Source software for IBM LinuxONE (like e.g. MongoDB, Docker, MariaDB, Node.js and Spark)
  • Manual : KVM for IBM z Systems : Planning and installation guide.
  • Manual : KVM for IBM z Systems : Administration Guide.
  • FAQ about access, registration and use of LinuxONE Community Cloud
  • Redbook : Getting Started with KVM for IBM z Systems 

What I think will be the most difficult step to take is that every one who wants to take the step towards LinuxONE will have to leave their comfort zone. As mainframers, we're not familiar with KVM, MongoDB, OpenStack or containers like Docker, but it's a possible, real future for our (dare I say) beloved mainframe. For people familiar with all these things, it takes a leap of faith to leave the familiar x386 platform or whatever platform they're using for the moment and taking that step towards the mainframe. All in all, this could be a game changer for the mainframe.

After I wrote this conclusion I started browsing through the Youtube videos again and you know, just have a look at the two videos below. They just show what I tried to express in words.

(*) quote from the liner notes of a LinuxONE customer presentation. Any other quotes are from the same presentation unless mentioned otherwise

No comments: