Canonical (Ubuntu) Needs a Mainframe (and zBC12 Post #3)

Canonical's Ubuntu forums have been hacked. Fortunately IBM offers the lovely new zEnterprise BC12 which is a great fit for new, newly security-minded customers like Canonical.

In my previous blog post I wrote "stay tuned," because I'd have a lot to write about the new software solutions IBM is announcing with the new zEnterprise BC12. In this post I'll start with some general observations on important foundational software capabilities that IBM is either improving or introducing for the first time. And as I've written many times (and as Canonical has perhaps realized), the marriage of hardware and all the software layers must be harmonious into order to achieve particular business outcomes and in order to deliver the best qualities of service. I'm also seeing IBM develop and ship new top-to-bottom solution packages which include zEnterprise server hardware and storage, operating systems, middleware, applications, maintenance, and services with simple, competitive, multi-year "no surprises" pricing. Inevitably there's always some customization involved in enterprise computing, but these zEnterprise solution kits greatly simplify the time-to-value.

Here are some examples of the new/improved foundational capabilities and associated solution packages:

  • IBM is introducing new hardware-based/software-exploited cryptographic algorithms, notably elliptic curve cryptography (ECC). IBM is seriously positioning zEnterprise as the enterprise security hub, with solutions for managing digital certificates across the enterprise, for example. The IBM Enterprise Key Management Foundation solution, introduced shortly after last year's zEC12 announcement, has been updated to include a zBC12 option and the new cryptographic algorithms.
  • IBM has formally announced z/OS 2.1. There's a lot to unpack in that announcement, and I might have to do that in a separate blog post, but one of my favorite areas of improvement is in z/OS UNIXTM System Services. As HP-UX and Solaris fade to black, IBM keeps improving z/OS UNIX as a warm and welcoming target environment for those workloads and for other applications. In particular IBM has adopted more of the new GNU conventions, and the z/OS C/C++ compiler picks up more of the latest C/C++ language standards, not to mention deeper exploitation of zEC12/zBC12 processor features for performance and scalability. Relatedly IBM has updated its Cognos business intelligence solutions to the latest version on z/OS so that customers can minimize data movement, keep their information most secure, and access reports from Web and mobile devices directly on zEnterprise. And if you want everything in one simple package, including a zEnterprise server, IBM enterprise storage, z/OS, DB2, the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator — with or without Cognos and SPSS — IBM's updated Smart Analytics System 9710 is perfectly packaged and ready to roll.
  • What about COBOL and PL/I which power, among other things, most of the world's large financial systems? IBM thinks its new Enterprise COBOL Version 5.1 is so attractive that it wants everyone to try it. Thus there's a new "developer trial" edition. You can order V5.1 and kick the tires without starting the 12 month single version charge (SVC) period. Enterprise COBOL V5.1 is the first COBOL compiler that can exploit specific processor models at compile time. IBM had to do a great deal of "plumbing" work to make this happen, and this version is but the opening salvo in a series of new COBOL compiler releases. IBMers on the forums are now openly discussing their COBOL roadmap to a 64-bit compiler, something they were hesitant to do until they got this new compiler technology in place. Go grab it. You'll like it. (And let's not forget the new PL/I V4.4.) But while a new compiler is an important foundational capability, IBM is doing a lot of work above that layer. A good example is IBM's Business Rules for z/OS which, in simple terms, means that application developers don't have to write or modify code to change business rules — those kinds of business changes can now be made much more easily in a graphical, code-free way. If you think the first and only way to solve a particular business problem is to program, think again. To borrow from Strunk and White, omit needless coding.
  • There are lots of new mainframe "freebies" — I'll have to update my list. Perhaps my favorite is the new z/OS Management Facility Version 2.1, and one of the big headlines there is that it's much easier to deploy and even less resource-intensive thanks to the new WebSphere Liberty Profile packaging. IBM is also letting everyone know that it expects to release a new Encryption Facility for z/OS that'll exploit the new zEDC hardware, so both compression and encryption will be turbocharged. zSecure Version 2.1 is also newly announced, to make security administration and auditing simpler and more reliable.
  • IBM is pushing its zEnterprise cloud credentials hard, and rightly so. The mainframe is the original and best cloud platform, particularly for secure private clouds. IBM announced z/VM Version 6.3 which now incorporates integration with the industry standard "OpenStack" initiative. You'll be able to manage z/VM-based cloud environments via OpenStack-compatible solutions. There are new z/VM features to reduce or eliminate planned outages of individual z/VM LPARs, notably "upgrade in place." Previously it was necessary to carve up system memory into 256 GB LPARs for z/VM, but now 1 TB z/VM LPARs are supported. (Memory scalability is often the limiting factor in cloud deployments, so this is an important increase.) Of course IBM has updated its Enterprise Linux Server (ELS) solution and application solutions based on ELS to incorporate these new capabilities.

That's just a sampling of core infrastructure capabilities and how they map to new and updated, packaged zEnterprise solutions. I expect to have more to say about this week's "announcement deluge" as I keep finding more and more gems, and I'll try to provide some more perspective on trends and directions.

Welcome to the future.

by Timothy Sipples July 24, 2013 in Innovation, Linux, Security
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