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Linux on the Mainframe:A Growing Disruption

By Ross Mauri, General Manager, IBM System z

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Ross Mauri, General Manager, IBM System z

Wikipedia defines disruptive innovation    years or decades), displacing an earlier technology.” Everyone knows that Linux is a classic example of   a disruptive innovation, having grown from a Swedish college student’s dorm-room project in the early 1990s  to a revolutionary open-source software that powers   massive data centers like Google’s and Facebook’s, stock   trading platforms such as the New York Stock Exchange   and London Stock Exchange, and even the International    Space Station.     

“ While some still   think of Linux   as suitable only   for commodity  hardware,  Linux on the   mainframe    is displacing   commodity   hardware in  many cases “

Many people also know that IBM helped drive Linux’s acceptance in the business world when it announced in 2000 that it would embrace Linux as strategic to its systems strategy and a year later committed to spending $1 billion on Linux projects.

But how many people know about the amazing success story of Linux on the IBM mainframe a marriage of one technology that revolutionized computing 50 years ago and remains as vital as ever, and another that has had much the same effect years later?

Today, 80 of IBM’s top 100 systems customers are running Linux on the mainframe for the most demanding enterprise workloads, and more than 50 percent of all new mainframe accounts since 2010 run Linux. There are more than 3,000 certified applications for Linux on System z. According to analysts, mainframe Linux growth is accelerating at 49 percent annually compared to 7 percent for the total Linux market.

And the value proposition of Linux on the mainframe is only growing stronger as the emergence of mobile, cloud, Big Data and social business reshapes the server market.

The mobile revolution was in its infancy when IBM introduced the first Integrated Facility Linux (IFL) engines  processors for Linux workloads for the mainframe in 2000. Today, mobile devices and apps are ubiquitous.

Mobile apps say, for online banking  are causing an exponential increase in data and transactions that must be integrated with core business processes, applications and data. Nothing does that more efficiently and securely than an IBM mainframe.

It turns out that the mainframe   also is a stud for the cloud. An IBM   mainframe can be subdivided to   run Linux virtual machines  6,000   at a time. Such capabilities offer the   scalability and functionality required    to establish a production private    cloud on Linux for System z, and one  that’s far more cost-efficient than x86-  based clouds.
  
 There’s an interesting irony here:   While some still think of Linux as  suitable only for commodity hardware, Linux on the mainframe is displacing  commodity hardware in many cases. 

 Take, for example, Blue Cross Blue  Shield of South Carolina, which faced a  critical decision on how to upgrade its    IT infrastructure as claims processing   requirements grew.

  Instead of building another  distributed server datacenter,   incurring construction costs and capital    expenses for the thousands of servers    and all the attendant software licensing   and infrastructure support, BCBSSC   chose a different route.      

The insurer removed 1,000    Intel-based servers, re-hosting    those applications on Linux on the mainframe and upping the number   of mainframe "MIPS" (millions of   instructions per second, the industry     standard for measuring mainframe   capacity) that they supported from 20  to more than 200.  

  In BCBSSC’s view, it’s easier    to scale on the mainframe than on   any other architecture; it’s easier    to secure mainframes then it is to  secure hundreds or thousands of   distributed servers; the mainframe’s   reliability and availability is  unparalleled; and thanks to   advanced management tools and    utilities, mainframes are easier to   manage than distributed computing    environments.

 By the way, BCBSSC ended up   with so much cloud capacity after  its switch from x86 to the mainframe   that one of their subsidiaries CDS  now acts as a service provider,   offering claim processing in    the cloud to regional insurance   providers nationwide.
 
 BancaCarige, one of the largest   banks in Italy, relies on Linux on the   mainframe for two key initiatives   mproving understanding of   consumer behavior through    analytics, and new mobile services    that engage and retain customers    through exemplary service. The  bank migrated several marketing    databases and applications from    the distributed environment to the   mainframe. 

  According to the bank, the most   important services now can be   managed together on a consistent,   stable and highly secure platform   that offers enormous scalability and   performance. System reliability is  becoming more and more important   as customers move away from   the traditional model of in branch   banking to mobile.

 The Met Office, the UK’s national   weather service, creates 3,000   weather forecasts a day with the  help of a pair of IBM zEnterprise 196   servers running Linux.  

 The weather service’s old   distributed system has vanished   with the wind.

That’s disruptive innovation.   (Ross Mauri is IBM’s General   Manager for System z.)

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