Cloud on mainframe – oxymoron or tautology?


I remember the first time someone instant messaged that some college student had ported Linux to the mainframe with the comment “Isn’t this the craziest thing you ever heard of?” My reaction then was “Crazy or brilliant?”

Similar reactions to the notion of mainframe (System z) and the cloud – some people think these are oil and vinegar, others that it’s the most natural association – given the mainframe’s virtualization, multi-tenancy, elastic scaling andchargeback. One of my favorite sayings – “Great minds think alike, fools seldom differ.”

If one reads the white paper “Build a highly affordable and scalable private cloud,” you’ll see several of the key concepts expanded on relative to the mainframe’s role in enterprise cloud deployments. What one can see if you step back is that there have been two parallel paths that have brought the mainframe to the nexus of hybrid cloud that will set a new standard for the industry. Between the Linux on mainframe and virtualization (zVM) coupled with the inherent QOS of the zOS system with its workload management, sysplex and transaction/database capabilities, you have the best of a systems of engagement and system of record worlds on one platform. Combine this with the new EC12 processor, this combination provide a logical consolidation of disparate set of workloads that offers unique flexibility and efficiencies with best of breed availability and security not seen in many of the private and public clouds available today.

Veni, vidi, vici! (I came, I saw, I conquered)

Existing enterprise customers should look at their mainframe as a critical asset that when combined with cloud software like CloudReady, providing certain SmartCloud Foundation capabilities, has the ability to run almost any kind of cloud workload that requires security, high availability/disaster recovery, workload management and chargeback. along with integration with robust, scalable transaction processing and a relational database second to none in scale, availability and now analytics. DB2 on z/OS with IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator can enable customers to deploy their warehouse on the mainframe and maintain single copy and run numerous queries much faster and cost effectively.

Take theĀ City of Honolulu for example. They wanted to provide useful, timely information to citizens such as tsunami evacuation zones, real-time bus locations, maps and self guided walking tours. By deploying a custom cloud using Linux on the IBM mainframe (z10 EC system), they obtained several benefits including:

  1. Reduced application deployment time from one week to only hours
  2. Lowered licensing costs for one database by 68 percent
  3. Enabled creation of a new property tax appraisal system
  4. Increased tax revenue by USD$1.4 million in just three months

They could provide a scalable self-service platform on which city employees could develop open source applications, and it empowered the general public to create and deploy citizen-centric applications.

My advice to existing IT organizations when looking at clouds is see this as an opportunity to showcase the value of your mainframe assets and not as a threat to your traditional processes. With a little “face lift” on top, such as automated provisioning with a self service portal, you can meet your line of business application requirements and continue to deliver the kind of enterprise qualities of service (QOS) that’s expected of your platform.

Vita brevis – Carpe diem! (life is short, seize the day) Bona fortuna (good luck).

This post was co-written with Vikram Gulati.

Comments: 5
Mike Baskey

About Mike Baskey

Mike Baskey is an IBM Distinguished Engineer who's now responsible for the overall System Z management portfolio, including cloud and analytics. He recently led the management architecture for the new zEnterprise workload-aware system. Mike's been responsible for all the management standards that IBM supports represented IBM on the Board of the DMTF and served as chairman from 2008-2012. Mike joined IBM in 1978 with TPF and has held numerous technical leadership positions. He was named Distinguished Engineer in 2003, is a member of the IBM Academy of Technology and was named a Master Inventor in 2010.
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5 Responses to Cloud on mainframe – oxymoron or tautology?

  1. Great Blog post, we are seeing a number of examples of zCloud for purely commercial reasons, take the example of one financial customer who wanted to consolidate there Oracle estate of 288 cores worth of x86, when they moved it to Linux on z they were able to deploy the same estate on 12 Linux engines on z. This will save them £3.3m in Oracle licenses over the next 3-years!!! If you are looking to do extreme Linux consolidation of middleware or DB's then Linux on z is the way to go. If you want more business case examples contact me @StevenDickens3

  2. Octavio says:

    Hello Mike. Many dicussion has been oppened in more than one Mainframe related Forum about Cloud. But I can see diffrent perception about what is really a Cloud. Some times, infrastructures with only virtualization, or virtualization with a more or less complex provisioning system, are called Cloud Systems. I still see the z/OS, with WLM, SMF (accounting), Sysplex, HW UoD capabilities, more closed to the foundation of a complete cloud system itself (private one, without authomatic self-service provisioning, of course), than some examples given somewhere… Everyone is familiar with the three different cloud implementations, private, cloud and mixed, but It should be necessary to speak about 'stages' too: different levels of cloud implementations. If not, I think many people will think that cloud is the 'fashion name' for the things we already have.

  3. creilly says:

    If you are interested in the Linux on z Honolulu story you can hear it directly from the Mayor, CIO, and some of their developers on this video series –

  4. Kevin Right says:

    Thanks for the advise. Hope a little “face lift” on top, such as automated provisioning with a self service portal would help to meet the line of business application. Great advise, Mike!

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