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Back to the future: Why z/OS mainframe is the ideal cloud platform

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By Pat Toole and Frank DeGilio

Fifty years ago, IBM CEO Thomas Watson Jr. unveiled the System/360—the first general purpose computing system specifically designed for business—calling it “the beginning of a new generation, not only of computers, but of their applications in business, science and government.”

It was this vision for computing that made possible the creation of bar codes, ATMs, electronic stock trading, online travel reservations, weather modeling and countless other inventions that have changed the way the world works.

Watson’s statement is as timely and true today as it was then, in the context of the evolution that’s occurring within IT via cloud computing. The System/360 ushered in the era of flexibility, adaptability, and economy for IT. It pioneered the concepts of backward and forward compatibility, the ability to add capacity as you needed it, and protecting the client’s investments in their technology, applications and data.

As we talk about the next inevitable phases of cloud, like platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS), we encounter some very specific themes and challenges that cry out for systems with those qualities:

• How do I provide multi-tenancy with the greatest number of people sharing the same machine as possible, securely and efficiently?
• How do I dynamically scale an environment immediately without waiting to provision?
• How do I provide each user a unique performance experience on the smallest number of systems possible?
• How do I keep track of how much capacity each user is using?
• How do I support thousands of users with a handful of IT professionals?

If there were an ideal operating system that could provide multi-tenancy, dynamic scaling, a unique user experience, fine-grained usage monitoring, and that could support thousands of users with a small group of admins, PaaS and SaaS solutions would be simple. Oh wait, there is—z/OS.

What was once only accessible to COBOL and Assembler programmers is now available to anyone. Today, a team of young IBM hardware and software developers in Poughkeepsie is creating simple web-based interfaces for z/OS, which will allow any programmer with web development experience to use this powerful platform for PaaS and SaaS.

IBM also continues to refine the technology and the delivery of mainframe computing for cloud applications. The new IBM Enterprise Cloud System can support up to 6,000 virtual machines in a single system, provide a secure multi-tenant environment and dynamically share resources across enterprise workloads, with higher system efficiency and greater scalability that lowers the total cost of Linux cloud deployments by up to 55 percent over comparable x86-based cloud infrastructure.

And the new “IBM MSP Utility Pricing for System z” pricing model, delivered through IBM Global Financing, provides consumption-based pricing designed especially to make mainframe technologies more widely accessible to Managed Service Providers. This consumption-based approach allows MSPs to focus on building their businesses, rather than on the cost of their infrastructure.

These innovations unlock the potential for z/OS and the modern mainframe to be the cloud platform of choice, enabling people to create business solutions built on the most secure, available, reliable cloud infrastructure ever known.

Pat Toole is general manager for IBM’s System z product line.

Frank De Gilio is an IBM Distinguished Engineer and chief cloud architect. You can follow him on Twitter at @degilio

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