March 1, 2024

IBM

When you think of mainframes, you may recall those days of hulking machines with blinking lights and 9-track tape drives spinning. How things have changed. These days, Big Blue’s latest  IBM LinuxONE 4 Express, a pre-configured rack mount system, would pass without remark in most small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Until they started using it. Then, it would be a different story.

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The IBM LinuxONE 4 Express, the newest member of the Rockhopper mainframe family, comes with up to a maximum of 16 Integrated Facility for Linux (IFLs). These Linux-only system boards are powered by a 4.6GHz IBM 8-core Telum processor. This 7nm architecture chip can support as much as 864GB of memory. Storage? It’s a rack mount, so you can add pretty much any storage you like. 

The Telum chip also includes an AI coprocessor. The goal is to enable you to use AI to deal with transactions in close to real-time. For example, IBM claims you can use the Telum chip to catch financial transaction fraud before it can be processed. Color me impressed. 

The new mainframe is also designed — when used with IBM’s GDPS software and DS8000 series storage with HyperSwap — to deliver 99.999999% (eight 9s) availability when running Red Hat’s be-spoke Kubernetes  OpenShift Container Platform. 

Steven Dickens, The Futurum Group VP and practice leader, said: “With the new LinuxONE 4 Express solution, IBM is uniquely positioned to handle mission-critical workloads with high availability. When you combine this with the system’s cybersecurity posture, IBM is well positioned for market traction.”

Cybersecurity? The new mini-mainframe comes with IBM Secure Execution for Linux. This is a hardware-based security technology that protects data run in Linux Kernel Virtual Machines (KVM) guests from being viewed or modified by the server environment. With Secure Execution, you can protect individual workloads not only from external attacks but also insider threats. This includes data in use, a particularly critical stage of security for digital assets use cases.

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All these capabilities can be used to run medical imaging applications safely with protected data using AI. For example, health insurance companies could analyze large volumes of medical records in near real-time to validate process claims.

You can also use it for such traditional mainframe jobs as workload consolidation: IBM claims that users who move Linux workloads from a comparable x86 server to an IBM LinuxONE 4 Express can save over 52% on their total cost of ownership (TCO) over five years.

Moreover, the LinuxONE 4 Express can be used to set up hybrid clouds using Red Hat products. Tina Tarquinio, IBM Z and LinuxONE’s VP of product management for IBM Z and LinuxONE, said: “IBM LinuxONE 4 Express is a chance for startups and small to medium-sized businesses to build an intentional hybrid cloud strategy from the ground up. IBM brings the power of the hybrid cloud and AI in the latest LinuxONE 4 system to a simple, easy-to-use format that fits in many data centers,”

As Rick Schoonmaker, IBM’s director of Z and LinuxONE hardware product management, said, “The new LinuxONE 4 Express is built to simplify the experience for SMBs and start-ups by offering three pre-configured machine sizes and pricing options as well as full solution add-on packages.” 

The LinuxONE 4 Express starts at $135,000 — for a new mainframe that’s dirt cheap — and will be available starting February 20.  

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It’s not just IBM touting the benefits of the LinuxONE 4 Express. Steve McDowell, a NAND Research enterprise infrastructure industry analyst, observed: “It addresses a common challenge for growing businesses — an IT infrastructure that can adapt and evolve to meet their changing requirements. By offering a scalable solution, IBM is not just selling a product but providing a long-term value proposition.”

McDowell added, “Another strategic decision is the focus on simplicity and ease of use. SMBs, which may have small IT departments, benefit significantly from LinuxONE 4 Express’s pre-configured, easy-to-deploy nature, reducing the barriers to adoption.”

Could there be a mainframe in your future? I cut my computing teeth on mainframes when they really were big iron machines, so I’ve always had a soft spot for them. But that doesn’t matter. When you look at all that the LinuxONE 4 Express brings to the table, I can see it working well for many businesses.