IBM offers bare metal LinuxONE instances through the cloud

IBM LinuxONE Bare Metal Servers let enterprises get the hardware of a mainframe for their own Linux environments via an off-premises IaaS model.

Network room and mainframes with virtual city in the cloud

IBM is now offering bare metal instances in the cloud powered by its LinuxONE hardware with a pitch that enterprises can consolidate workloads and reduce energy consumption compared to x86 servers under similar conditions.

The LinuxONE servers feature the Telum processor that IBM uses in its z16 mainframe, but they're designed to run multiple flavors of enterprise Linux rather than the mainframe z/OS.

IBM shipped the fourth generation of its LinuxONE product line last September, dubbed LinuxONE Emperor, promising both scale-out and scale-up performance and requiring a lot less hardware than standard x86 servers. More recently, it introduced LinuxONE Rockhopper, a smaller-scale system for more modest deployments.

The need for less hardware translates to greater power efficiency for similar computing capacity compared to an x86 environment. The company claims that consolidating Linux workloads from comparable x86 servers onto five IBM LinuxONE systems can reduce energy consumption by 75%, cut space requirements by 50%, and slash the carbon dioxide equivalent by over 850 metric tons annually.

IBM says its LinuxONE Bare Metal Servers are geared primarily for two types of workloads: data-serving and application modernization. On the data serving front, IBM has gotten a lot of attention for its work with Citi to migrate the bank's MongoDB database to LinuxONE and consolidate its processor count from x86 to Telum by an order of 10 to 1. Most database license fees are based on the number of cores used, so fewer cores mean a much lower license cost.

On the application modernization front, IBM is pushing its Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform as its choice for solution deployment. LinuxONE can provide lower latency and faster throughput for these workloads through co-location compared to the competition, according to IBM.

Since it borrows from the mainframe hardware rather than x86, LinuxONE has a number of unique features not found on an x86 server. These include Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) memory assignment, which provides hardware configurations best suited for the workload; integration with private networking for advanced security; and the ability to monitor the bare-metal instance through integration with IBM's Activity Tracker security technology.

These integrated security modules have made LinuxONE particularly popular in confidential computing circles, said Steve Dickens, vice president and practice leader in the hybrid cloud practice at Futurum Research. IBM is winning blockchain contracts to secure digital assets, thanks to its advanced key management for crypto, he said.

“The Telum chip offered via the cloud is a profoundly compelling proposition for a number of reasons,” he said. “All the other cloud providers have commodity hardware running x86. The ability to run a high-performance chip architecture represents a number of opportunities for heavily regulated workloads, like banking.”

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