IBM is expanding support for Linux on mainframes with a few new initiatives announced today, including plans for an Ubuntu distribution.
The announcement also includes a new Linux mainframe server called LinuxONE and mainframe code contributions to a new "Open Mainframe Project" formed by the Linux Foundation.
IBM and Canonical are teaming up to create an Ubuntu distribution for LinuxONE and existing z Systems mainframe hardware.
"z Systems clients have enjoyed the performance, security and transactional capabilities of mainframes for decades," Canonical CEO Jane Silber wrote today. "By bringing the Ubuntu operating system that developers love to the IBM z Systems mainframe, we will make the cloud and scale out applications (e.g., Apache Spark, MongoDB, MariaDB, and PostgreSQL) customers love to run on Ubuntu available to the mainframe."
Ubuntu already supports IBM's Power servers, which run Unix and Linux. IBM and Canonical did not say exactly when Ubuntu for mainframes will be available.
There are already SUSE and Red Hat distributions for LinuxONE and z Systems hardware. Though IBM has its own z/OS operating system, it has supported Linux on the mainframe for 15 years.
LinuxONE comes in two sizes for large enterprises and mid-size businesses. The larger one, based on z13 hardware, can "scale up to 8,000 virtual machines or hundreds of thousands of containers—currently the most of any single Linux system," IBM said. SUSE is the first Linux distribution for mainframes to support KVM, a hypervisor for the Linux kernel.
The Linux Foundation's Open Mainframe Project brings together academic, government and corporate members to boost adoption of Linux on mainframes. To get it started, IBM announced a contribution of mainframe code to the open source community, including "IT predictive analytics that constantly monitor for unusual system behavior and help prevent issues from turning into failures. The code can be used by developers to build similar sense and respond resiliency capabilities on other systems."
Though mainframes may seem outdated, they still have a place in many data centers. IBM is hoping to boost adoption with free access to a LinuxONE Developer Cloud that will let developers test and pilot applications without having physical access to a mainframe. IBM said it will also lower the up-front costs of mainframe hardware by offering metered billing for LinuxONE hardware.
"The metered mainframe will still sit inside the customer’s on-premises data center, but billing will be based on how much the customer uses the system, much like a cloud model, [IBM GM Ross] Mauri explained," according to TechCrunch.