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 the 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.

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