Bucking conventional wisdom, a midsize cybersecurity provider goes LinuxONE

By | 3 minute read | August 10, 2021

hacker typing

Most people think enterprise-class servers are only for the world’s giant enterprises. We at Mainstream Technology Services, a managed security services provider (MSSP) with less than 200 employees, have a different view. We’re working with IBM to replace our heritage x86 computing platform with LinuxONE, a Linux-specific enterprise server in the IBM Z family. Having outgrown the x86, we expect the new platform will help us deliver better cybersecurity services to our customers today and set the stage for future growth—at considerably less cost than staying with our current infrastructure.

Cybersecurity for small and midsize DoD contractors and medical practices

Mainstream focuses on cybersecurity and compliance for US Department of Defense (DoD) contractors and medical practices. Our customers tend to have around 50 employees. At that size, their top IT person is often the office manager and IT security isn’t a defined role. Basically, they ask us to manage their cybersecurity and we take their pain away.

We do this from an outsourced security operations center (SOC) that handles security requirements such as HIPAA for healthcare and the 110 primary cybersecurity controls for DoD contractors, along with managing all the firewalls, communications, encryption keys, logs, alerts, remediation and other security processes. These tasks can be daunting for even a single company, but our work extends across a large customer base. The result is a massive volume of data and compute-intensive analytics that must be online 24×7.

That’s why we need a secure, highly available environment with huge amounts of input/output, memory and processing density. Plus, with explosive growth in the number of DoD contractors and other prospects for our services, our future depends on an expansion-ready platform.

A search for the highest available IT infrastructure

Having experienced an outage of our aging x86 infrastructure and not wanting to spend good money after bad, we evaluated our options with the question: which platform can deliver the highest levels of security and availability? The answer was IBM.

This realization led us to LinuxONE, currently being configured as our new infrastructure platform. When the job is complete, multiple on-premises enterprise-class systems will power our operations. But in getting to this decision, we experienced a few bumps in the road—mainly due to the conventional wisdom that enterprise servers are only for the big guys.

In fact, when we reached out to some business partners, they assumed that given our size, an enterprise server would be overkill. It wasn’t until we engaged IBM directly that we found an understanding of the demands an MSSP places on availability, data management, processing and scalability—demands in complete alignment with the Z platform. And we were of one mind on the need for expansion as our solution complexity and customer base grows.

Expected cost reductions of 40% annually

We also discovered a strong bottom-line rationale for the decision. In comparing the costs of acquiring and supporting enterprise servers to staying with the x86 platform, we calculated that LinuxONE would reduce our total cost of ownership (TCO) by 40%.

Since then, we’ve worked closely with IBM technicians to ramp up our LinuxONE skills. They’ve been highly responsive to a smaller company like ours, and all-in on porting our security software, both open-source and proprietary, to run flawlessly under Red Hat Enterprise Linux. There are always a few glitches, but the IBM team’s creativity has helped us meet every challenge.

We believe having the best IT platform will have a positive impact on our services delivery—and on our sales potential. We advise customers to look under the covers of the services they’re buying. The most savvy will appreciate the advantage of doing business with a cybersecurity services provider powered by IBM.