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Happy Birthday Mainframe

By HANS-JOACHIM PICHT posted Tue April 07, 2020 10:20 AM


Today, 7 April marks a special day,  the 56th birthday of the mainframe. It was on April 7,  in the year of 1964 that the System/360 was announced. The first version of the server now known as IBM z15, was named  IBM System/360, to indicate that this new system would handle every need of every user in the business and scientific worlds because it covered all 360 degrees of the compass. It was the first family of computers designed to cover a wide variety  of applications.  A general purpose computer, rather than a special purpose build device.

A key design point was the clear distinction between architecture and implementation. The initial S/360 was quite successful in the market, allowing customers to purchase a smaller system with the knowledge they would always be able to migrate upward if their needs grew, without reprogramming of application software or replacing peripheral devices.   At that time, the development of this was a gigantic 5 billion dollar, bet-your-company kind of investment. In these days, an industrial investment only exceeded by NASA’s Apollo flight program to put a man on the moon.

And if you just think of it. To have a server  still being produced and maintained 56 years after its announcement is a unique happening. None of the computer systems that date back half a century still exists. Even many of the IT companies from that timeframe don’t exist anymore for that matter. And software written and compiled in these days can still run today, because of the backwards compatibility.

The mainframe has been declared dead by many. For example, in March 1991, Stewart Alsop famously stated: “I predict that the last mainframe will be unplugged on March 15, 1996.” As it turned out, this was not the most successful prediction...

To me, what makes this IBM z platform relevant over the timespan of a half century, it the fact, that the research and development has never stopped. And that the platform has always adopted to the future.


  • 67 of the top 100 Fortune 100
  • 44 of the top 50 Banks
  • 8 of the top 10 Insurers use IBM Z
  • 4 of the top 5 airlines (by revenue)
  • 7 of the top 10 Global Retailers

run IBM Z systems.


Fifty years after the first S/360 was announced and 30 years after the rise of distributed systems that were supposed to replace them, the mainframe  is still going strong. And meanwhile, IBM has released new mainframe servers – and not just for the existing  clients: we are targeting cloud startups with the LinuxONE servers.

Since 2000 IBM is supporting the Linux operating system  on the mainframe, and, 20 years later we see a significant adoption:

  • Installed Linux MIPS grew at 30% CAGR
  • 3% of Total installed MIPS run Linux as of 4Q19
  • Installed IFL MIPS increased by 38% YTY from 4Q18 to 4Q19
  • 52% of IBM Z Enterprises have IFL’s installed as of 4Q19
  • 91 of the top 100 IBM Z Enterprises are running Linux on z as of 4Q19
  • 44% of new FIE/FIC IBM Z Accounts run Linux
  • 40% of all IBM Z servers have IFLs

With the introduction of the LinuxONE mainframes, it’s possible to run a number of different Linux distributions natively on these mainframes, which are named after penguins – eg Emperor and Rockhopper.

In 2017, the z14 mainframe introduced pervasive encryption. And 2018s IBM Z14 ZR1 gave us a rack-mountable mainframe. In September 2019 IBM z15 platform was introduced, delivering the ability to manage the privacy of customer data across hybrid multicloud environments. With z15, clients can manage who gets access to data via policy-based controls, with an industry-first capability to revoke access to data across the hybrid cloud.

The movement of data between partners and third parties is often the root cause of data breaches. In fact, 60 percent of businesses reported they suffered a data breach caused by a vendor or third party in 2018. With the growing adoption of hybrid multicloud environments, the importance of maintaining data security and privacy only grows more acute and challenging.

The IBM z15 culminates multiple years of development with over 3,000 IBM Z patents issued or in process and represents a collaboration with input from over 100 companies. Key z15 innovations from these investments across IBM Systems and Research include:

   Encryption Everywhere
– Building upon pervasive encryption, IBM unveiled new Data Privacy Passports technology that clients can use to gain control over how data is stored and shared – enabling the ability to protect and provision data and revoke access to that data at any time, not only within the z15 environment but across an enterprise's hybrid multicloud environment. z15 can also encrypt data everywhere – across hybrid multicloud environments – to help enterprises secure their data wherever it travels.

    Cloud-Native Development – Can give clients a competitive advantage by evolving how they modernize apps in place, build new cloud-native apps and securely integrate their most important workloads across clouds. Clients are already using IBM Z for their mission-critical workloads to build, deploy and manage next-gen apps and protect data through advanced security.

    Instant Recovery – An industry-first approach to limiting the cost and impact of planned and unplanned downtime, enabling users to access full system capacity for a period of time to accelerate shutdown and restart of IBM Z services and provide a temporary capacity boost to rapidly recover from lost time.

And what does the future look like? Nowadays Mainframe applications are moving from their traditional green screens to displays that look like anything you’d find on a Windows or Linux platform or mobile phone. They can provide hybrid multicloud capabilities. They can integrate with other platforms. They can derive information from Big Data and the Internet of Things. They can run blockchain and docker, and they provide pervasive encryption.

So, although they are often misperceived as dinosaurs, they are in fact more like quick-witted and agile mammals.

In February 2020 IBM announced that Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform is generally available for IBM Z® and IBM LinuxONE™. Red Hat is a leader in hybrid cloud and enterprise Kubernetes, with more than 1,000 customers already using Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform. With the availability of OpenShift for IBM Z and LinuxONE, the agile cloud-native world of containers and Kubernetes is now reinforced by the security features, scalability and reliability of IBM’s enterprise servers.

The availability of OpenShift for Z and LinuxONE is a major milestone for both hybrid multicloud and for enterprise computing. OpenShift supports cloud-native applications being built once and deployed anywhere – and now extends this to on-premises enterprise servers such as IBM Z and LinuxONE. This offering is the result of the collaboration between the IBM and Red Hat development teams and discussions with early adopter clients.

From many interactions with our clients, we hear that organizations today are looking to bring business innovation to market faster and more efficiently. Containers enable applications to be packaged together with their software dependencies, and Kubernetes adds powerful tools to manage large numbers of containers and orchestrate the full application lifecycle.

OpenShift then brings together the core open source technologies of Linux, containers and Kubernetes, adds additional open source capabilities such developer tools and a registry, and hardens, tests and optimizes the software for enterprise production use.

A few weeks ago we also annouced that IBM Cloud Pak for Applications is available for IBM Z and LinuxONE – supporting modernization of existing apps and building new cloud-native apps. In addition, as announced last August, it is our intention to deliver additional Cloud Paks for IBM Z and LinuxONE.

By combining the agility and portability of Red Hat OpenShift and IBM Cloud Paks with the security features, scalability and reliability of IBM Z and LinuxONE, businesses will have the tools to build new cloud-native applications while also modernizing current applications. Deploying Red Hat OpenShift and IBM Cloud Paks on IBM Z and LinuxONE reinforces key strengths and offers additional benefits:

  • Vertical scalability enables existing large monolithic applications to be containerized, and horizontal scalability enables support for large numbers of containers in a single IBM Z or LinuxONE system
  • Designed to protect data from external attacks and insider threats, with pervasive encryption and tamper-responsive protection of encryption keys1
  • Designed for 99.999% and more availability to meet service levels and customer expectations
  • Integration and co-location of cloud-native applications on the same system as the data enables faster response times than depending on network access speeds

IBM z/OS Cloud Broker helps enable OpenShift applications to interact with data and applications on IBM Z. IBM z/OS Cloud Broker is the first software product to provide access to z/OS services by the broader development community.

Customers using OpenShift on IBM Z and LinuxONE can also license IBM Cloud Infrastructure Center to manage the underpinning cluster infrastructure. The Cloud Infrastructure Center is an infrastructure-as-a-service offering which provides simplified infrastructure management in support of z/VM based Linux virtual machines on IBM Z and LinuxONE.

What else is new?

As of last week, IBM z/OS Ansible is available now. It will enables you to automate z/OS applications and IT infrastructure. It will also allow to automate development and operations through unified workflow orchestration across platforms.

This new DevOps tool will also work with your existing JCL, REXX, and z/OSMF assets. Red Hat Ansible Certified Content for IBM Z, enabling Ansible users to automate IBM Z applications and IT infrastructure. The Certified Content will be available in Automation Hub, with an upstream open-source version offered on Ansible Galaxy. This means that no matter what mix of infrastructure our clients are working with, IBM is bringing automation for IBM Z into the fold to help you manage across your hybrid environment through a single control panel.

For developers and operations, Ansible allows them to break down traditional internal and historical technology silos to centralize automation — all while leveraging the performance, scale, control and security provided by IBM Z. This brings the best of both worlds together with a practical and more economical solution.

I think this is an exciting time for both enterprise computing and hybrid multicloud as they come together with Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Z and LinuxONE. Stay tuned for many more discussions about the enterprise hybrid multicloud with Red Hat OpenShift and IBM Cloud Paks for IBM Z and IBM LinuxONE at a series of events during 2020.

We are looking forward to many interactive discussions in this new forum!

Happy 56th birthday mainframe.