The Open Mainframe Project – A Critical Industry Evolution
The Open Mainframe Project was established to create an open source, technical community that industry and community participants may easily participate in and so that they may contribute to the creation of assets and materials that will benefit the ecosystem around Linux and open source software on the mainframe.
DataKinetics joined the Open Mainframe Project in November of 2015 because it aligns perfectly with what we do at DataKinetics. We’ve been developing products and partnering with other ISVs to provide solutions for multi-platform enterprises for several years now, and intend to do even more in the months and years to come.
Linux on the mainframe
When IBM shocked the mainframe community, and launched Linux on the mainframe in the year 2000, it was a ‘shot heard around the world’. Immediately it became obvious that the mainframe was about to change forever – and that was a change for the better.
There was no danger then, and there is no danger now of the mainframe legacy passing away. Large enterprises are retaining their high-value z/OS assets, and will do so for many years to come. Why? Primarily because of their massive fiscal investments in the technology, but no less so because the mainframe performs like a champ.
No, the legacy mainframe usage isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But the mainframe is seeing and will continue to see its most significant growth on the Linux side, and that will be accelerated by initiatives like the Open Mainframe Project.
IBM continues to make contributions in this area as well. For some time they have offered up Linux on z Systems – a version on Linux that can run concurrently on the same hardware as a z/OS installation (this has also been called zLinux or z/Linux – as well as LinuxONE, a Linux-only version of the mainframe.
At this time, more than a third of IBM mainframe clients are running Linux – growth in this area is important, but new customers need to be brought to the mainframe, and the Open Mainframe Project is part of the answer to help make that happen.
So where’s the interest?
Why isn’t there a stampede of new customers flocking to the mainframe? Well, there is a lot of history, misinformation and just plain bias to overcome. To folks who don’t know anything about mainframe computing, it reeks of obsolescence and high costs.
True, mainframe systems have been around for decades. But so has the automobile. And just like a Tesla Model S can hardly be compared to a Ford Model T, a z13 mainframe (2015) cannot be compared to an IBM 704 mainframe (1957). Not in proper context, anyway.
It is true that a mainframe system can me more costly to operate, but for good reason. A single mainframe can replace several racks full of commodity servers, consuming far less electric power, floor space and cooling capacity, and can be maintained by a much smaller systems support group. Yes, it can cost more, but the higher cost is more than offset by the amount of work that it handles. Just like the way a city bus costs more than a single commuter car, but hauls far more people to work in the morning.
Further confusing the issue, there are some smart people in IT who just don’t like the mainframe. Sometimes for reasons that aren’t really valid. Whether it’s a lack of understanding of the actual value of the mainframe, or the false perception of it as a “legacy” platform, or any other reason, bias needs to take a back seat – way, way, way back – to the actual numbers that demonstrate cost-effectiveness.
It’s going to be up to us, the mainframe ISVs and other open source champions to show the world that open source mainframe computing is in their own best interest. And not just by a little bit, either.
Open source moving forward
We are serious about our commitment to the open-source community by combining the best of the open source world with the most advanced computing system in the world, in order to help clients manage growing workloads (mobile and hybrid cloud, etc.). Building on the budding success of Linux on the mainframe, we continue to push the limits beyond the capabilities of commodity servers that are not designed for security and performance at extreme scale.
The open mainframe will allow customers to leverage their younger and more plentiful programmers and allow them to use the programming languages and the toolsets that they’re most comfortable using, and honestly, the same programming languages and toolsets that are used most often in today’s mainstream computing environments.
As customers, vendors and champions of mainframe technology, it’s also in all of our own best interests to promote the use of Linux on the mainframe. If the platform goes away, we’re left with doing the work that needs to get done using lesser platforms that actually cost more to run. And that’s going to be a disadvantage for all of us. It deserves to survive and thrive, for the good of customers, ISVs and industry as a whole.
While some vendors spend their time battling about whose products are better, or how they’re more committed than the other, DataKinetics prefers to look ahead and ensure a vibrant and successful future for the mainframe – the right tool for the right jobs. We have that in common with the Open Mainframe Project.
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