July 11 2023


A Journey into the Realm of Mainframes and Open Source Software like Linux


In the world of modern computing, few technologies have had as profound an impact as the mainframe. These powerful machines, which have been at the heart of the IT operations of the world's largest organizations for decades, continue to play a crucial role in an age of growing digitization. This article will explore the IBM LinuxONE, a special purpose mainframe designed to handle thousands of Linux system images.

History of Mainframes and IBM

In 1964, IBM took a monumental leap forward in the technology industry with the launch of the System/360, an innovative family of mainframes that would leave an indelible mark on the computing industry. The System/360 was not just a machine; it represented a veritable revolution in computing. It was a platform capable of handling a wide range of computing needs, both in business and science, making it an indispensable asset for a number of applications.

The Sistema/360, with its versatility and ability to cover a wide variety of needs, not only changed the course of the computer industry, but completely redefined its parameters. Its functionality was such that companies and institutions from all over the world were ready to pay to access it, although the rental costs were by no means negligible. To rent an IBM 360 system, costs ranged from $2,700 to $155,000 a month, a considerable sum even at the time.

This launch, in fact, caused a great earthquake in the IT landscape of the time, overshadowing the so-called "seven dwarfs of IT", a series of companies at the time competitors of IBM in the computer sector. These companies, faced with the power and capability of IBM's System/360, found themselves struggling to survive in a market that was being completely rewritten by IBM.

Of these "seven dwarfs", only Hewlett-Packard was able to resist, but at a high price. Faced with competition from IBM, Hewlett-Packard was forced to downsize and focus on the production of personal computers and printers, abandoning competition in the mainframe sector. In this way, IBM's System/360 era not only changed the course of the computing industry, but completely redefined the competitive landscape in the computing industry.

The Evolution of IBM Mainframes: From the 360 ​​Series to the Z Series

The System/360 later evolved into the 370, and then became the Z Series, which is still in operation today in major companies and government agencies around the world. This longevity is due to compatibility with applications written even in the 60s. In fact, an estimated 10.000 Z Series mainframes are currently in operation worldwide.

The domination of Mainframes in the IT world

The exceptional diffusion and cruciality of IBM mainframes in the IT world are highlighted by a series of impressive statistics, which demonstrate the absolute centrality of these machines in the structure of modern information technology.

The significant influence of mainframes is confirmed by their widespread use by major global companies: 71% of the world's top 500 companies rely on mainframes (MF) for their computing needs. This clearly indicates that mainframes, while often perceived as obsolete technologies, continue to play a central role in the operations of the world's largest enterprises.

Furthermore, 90% of all credit card transactions globally are handled by mainframes. This figure underscores the critical importance of mainframes in managing financial transactions, representing a major milestone for the global banking and finance industry.

While mainframes handle 68% of the world's IT workloads, they account for only 6% of IT costs. This discrepancy between the volume of workload managed and the proportion of costs indicates the extraordinary efficiency of mainframes, which allow you to manage huge amounts of data and operations at a relatively low cost.

To fully understand the capabilities of a mainframe, consider that each IBM z16 can handle up to 19 billion transactions per day. This astronomical figure highlights the tremendous power and ability of IBM mainframes to handle a volume of data and transactions far exceeding that of any other platform.

Specifically within the financial sector, the role of mainframes is even more pronounced: 92 of the top 100 banks and all of the top 10 insurers in the world rely on mainframes for their operations.

Compared to the size of the market, the relevance of mainframes is equally significant. The mainframe market is estimated at $5.304,8 million in 2023, and is expected to grow steadily over the coming years. The mainframe market is projected to reach $2028 million in size by 6.188,1, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2,6%. This reflects the robustness and resilience of the mainframe market despite the advent of new technologies and platforms.

IBM LinuxONE: The Modern Era of Mainframes

As part of this evolution, the latest addition to IBM's mainframe family is LinuxONE. This special system is designed to run thousands of Linux system images. Basically, LinuxONE can handle any application designed for the open source operating system.

Many companies are going through a phase of unprecedented challenges in the transition to the digital economy. These include issues related to privacy, information security, an increasingly competitive environment, uncertain economic growth, and technical and geopolitical challenges. Furthermore, the implementation of new regulations such as the GDPR and the need for greater customer focus have made managing these difficulties even more complex. The solution to these problems may lie in IBM LinuxONE™ servers.

The New Risks of the Digital Economy

The digital economy has brought with it a wide range of risks that businesses face. Cyber ​​attacks, the implementation of new regulations such as the GDPR and the obligation to focus digital applications and systems on the customer have created new difficulties for companies. To meet these challenges, it is essential to choose a platform that offers reliable, secure and customer-oriented solutions.

IBM LinuxONE™: A Solution for New Challenges

IBM LinuxONE™ offers technology that stands apart from other solutions available on the market, designed to meet the emerging needs of enterprises. These are the top ten reasons to choose IBM LinuxONE™ as your commercial platform:

  1. Less risk
  2. Next generation technology
  3. Safety
  4. Performance
  5. Scalability
  6. Availability
  7. Productivity
  8. Agility/flexibility
  9. Disaster recovery
  10. Top offer

10 Reasons to Choose IBM LinuxONE™: Detailed Analysis

Here is an expanded rundown of the top 10 reasons to choose IBM LinuxONE™:

  1. Less risk: IBM LinuxONE™ is distinguished by its ability to significantly mitigate business, compliance, economic, operational and project risks. Equipped with advanced availability, disaster recovery, scalability and security features, it minimizes the business and financial risks that could arise from situations such as downtime, penalties due to violations or non-compliance, as well as human errors, which can occur during the delicate system reconfiguration process in the integration of support hardware to handle increased transactions and workloads. Project risk reduction is facilitated by the presence of numerous features, such as pervasive encryption integrated into the operating system, which allows the project team to focus exclusively on applications or microservices. This lightens the workload, reduces the code required and interfaces to manage, getting projects done faster, with fewer human resources and bugs.
  2. Using the latest next generation technologies: The IBM LinuxONE™ architecture is unique in providing unshared sharing of data between different server workloads, known as a shared-everything configuration. Unlike x86 servers, which operate on a shared-nothing configuration (where each workload needs its own copy of data), IBM LinuxONE™ supports a single version of information with built-in encryption. IBM LinuxONE™ servers implement the latest technologies, including Java and other modern languages, analysis tools such as Hadoop, Docker and other containers, Chef, Puppet, KVM, various Linux distributions, open source and so on. They are suitable both for use in a data center in a traditional legacy environment, and as a platform for hosting a cloud platform.
  3. Safety: IBM LinuxONE™ is the only Linux server that can provide pervasive end-to-end encryption, securing data in transit and at rest. This is possible thanks to high-speed hardware encryption both on-chip and on the separate CryptoExpress card protected by security commands. The implementation of the Secure Service Container ensures that there is no access from administrative sources to the data – even the debug data is encrypted. Additionally, LPAR isolation nearly eliminates security breaches, greatly limiting financial and reputational damage.
  4. Performance: IBM LinuxONE™ offers the best workload management by ensuring consistently consistent response, regardless of the number of workloads running on the same platform. Utilizes the fastest processors available on the market, running at 5.2MHz, and leverages I/O offload to separate processors and allow the core processors to focus on application loads and handle large amounts of data in memory – up to 32TB of main memory.
  5. Scalability: IBM LinuxONE™ is able to scale up and out without interruption, providing levels of stability never achieved by x86 servers, which require frequent reconfigurations and often re-cabling. The ability to support exponential increases in transactional analytics and workloads with linear cost increases, coupled with a lack of server complexity, allows the user to manage change, thus providing peace of mind for executives and their team.
  6. Availability: IBM LinuxONE™ guarantees an impressive 99,999% availability at no additional cost. Many users achieve 100% availability for extended periods due to system designs that ensure continuous operation. These servers have been hardened to operate in nearly any environment, making them virtually immune to fire, flood, and earthquakes.
  7. Productivity: IBM LinuxONE™ maximizes productivity by reducing work cycles compared to similar applications or microservices on x86 servers. Decades of experience in mainframe operations have made routine and extraordinary operations, including disaster recoveries, easier and less staff dependent, thus reducing personnel costs and improving productivity.
  8. Agility/Flexibility: IBM LinuxONE™ ensures Linux application portability from x86 servers without the need for rewrites. It supports containers and can integrate analytics with transactional workloads, giving enterprises the flexibility to scale, scale loads, or scale in any vertical and/or horizontal combination.
  9. Disaster Recovery: With IBM LinuxONE™, disaster recovery is much easier and faster than putting thousands of x86 servers and their databases up and running. In some cases, the difference could be days. The IBM LinuxONE™ architecture eliminates the need to grapple with the daunting challenge of synchronizing countless server recovery points and logs. IBM LinuxONE™ also supports IBM geographically disbursed parallel sysplex (GDPS), which facilitates the automation of recovery procedures in the event of planned or unplanned outages, ensuring near-continuous availability and disaster resilience.
  10. Best economic offer: Thanks to low development costs and efficient management of operating costs, it is possible to realize higher margins, as every saving translates directly into profit. Additionally, introducing new workloads or scaling existing ones brings added value through new revenue streams and potential customer retention opportunities. On the cost side, companies can adopt a usage-based payment model, directly linking costs to the benefits gained. The total cost of ownership (TCO) for an IBM LinuxONE™ server is significantly lower than for x86 solutions when you include costs for all hardware, software, databases and disaster recovery systems. Depending on specific usage, over a three-year period, a business can save 30 to 50 percent compared to an x86 solution. IBM LinuxONE™ also offers the ability to upgrade over time at significantly lower cost than a complete replacement. Conversely, when x86 servers become obsolete, new replacement servers must be purchased, configured, and installed. IBM LinuxONE™ servers are the best choice from day one, throughout the product lifecycle of 5 years and beyond.


Choosing a suitable platform can make all the difference for businesses operating in the digital economy. With its many advantages in terms of security, performance, scalability and more, IBM LinuxONE™ offers a best-in-class solution to meet the new challenges of the digital world.

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