IBM Aims to Expand Open Source Community Surrounding Mainframes

Mike Vizard
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Developing Tech: What's Next?

For over a decade now, IBM has been promoting the adoption of Linux on mainframes. Most recently, it extended that effort by developing versions of mainframes that come loaded only with Linux. Now IBM is looking to expand the developer ecosystem surrounding those mainframe platforms.

In addition to updating the systems that make up the IBM LinuxONE portfolio, IBM has announced that it is optimizing both its StrongLoop framework for creating application programming interfaces and the Cloudant NoSQL database that it provides as a managed service to run on IBM Linux. It also announced that it is collaborating with SUSE to leverage OpenStack to manage instances of the Linux on a mainframe and that the Go programming language developed by Google is now available on IBM Linux mainframes.

Also, Kathryn Guarini, vice president of System z Growth Initiatives, says that the Ubuntu distribution of Linux from Canonical will soon be available on the IBM LinuxONE platform.

According to Guarini, as developers begin to make more use of technologies such as Javascript Object Notation (JSON), many of them are looking for platforms that can run those applications at levels of scale that are more efficient than traditional x86 servers. From an IT operations perspective, Guarini says, mainframes are not only more efficient, they provide much higher levels of overall uptime for modern applications that are rapidly becoming the foundation of many digital business initiatives.

It’s too early to say if all these efforts to embrace developers will increase the number of Linux workloads running on the mainframe. While the cost of acquiring a mainframe has dropped considerably, many developers prefer to build applications on x86 servers because they don’t really know if the application will succeed or not. Building on top of an x86 server minimizes the financial risk. Nevertheless, Guarini says, IBM has crafted a number of mainframe licensing options that serve to mitigate that issue by essentially making mainframe CPU cycles available as a service.

Whatever the ultimate platform choice, however, the one thing that is clear is that many of these applications are starting to scale to levels that developers would have thought unimaginable only a few short years ago.

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