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The mainframe, the rock solid hardware that has been around for decades, remains a force for the modern era.
One of the vendors still building mainframes is IBM, which today announced the latest iteration of its Linux-focused mainframe system, the LinuxOne Emperor 4. IBM has been building LinuxOne systems since 2015, when the first Emperor mainframe made its debut, and is updating the platform at a cadence of about two years.
The LinuxOne Emperor 4 is based on the IBM z16 mainframe that was announced by IBM in April. While the z16 is optimized for IBM’s z/OS operating system, unsurprisingly, LinuxOne revolves around Linux and, to a large extent, the Kubernetes cloud-native container orchestration platform.
“It only runs Linux and it really aims to meet the needs of the people running the Linux-based infrastructure in the data centers by giving them a new paradigm for operating a Linux environment that is more efficient and scalable” , Marcel Mitran, IBM Fellow, CTO of cloud platform IBM LinuxONE, told VentureBeat.
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IBM continues to develop non-x86 enterprise hardware
The LinuxOne is part of IBM’s overall hardware portfolio, which can compete with other silicon architectures, most notably x86, which is developed by Intel and AMD.
IBM also builds the Power-based architecture, which can also be optimized for Linux deployments. In July, IBM announced a new line of Power10 servers for business applications. About its mainframe and Power systems portfolio, IBM reported: revenue growth in the most recent financial quarter with a 69% increase in mainframe revenue.
Mainframes and especially the LinuxOne are still used by financial services companies around the world. Among IBM’s LinuxOne users is Citibankwhich uses the mainframe system alongside the MongoDB database to power some of its mission-critical financial services.
Inside the LinuxOne Emperor 4
The new LinuxOne Emperor 4 system supports 32 IBM Telum processors, which are built on a 7nm process. The system offers up to 40 TB of RAIM (Redundant Array of Independent Memory) and is designed with quantum safe cryptographic algorithms to provide a high degree of security.
Mitran noted that the LinuxOne Emperor 4 offers “seven nines” availability (99.99999), which translates to just three seconds of downtime per year.
The high availability is made possible by a number of innovative technologies, including the use of self-healing RAIM memory. Mitran said the new system also has a feature that allows a system core to be switched to an available core in the blink of an eye when needed.
“There is integrated technology to perform data center failover, both from a compute and storage perspective, using new technology called GDPS [Geographically Dispersed Parallel Sysplex] hyperswap technology,” said Mitran. “That and a lot more of what’s built into these systems is how we deliver the design for an availability of seven nines.”
AI inference fit for an emperor
One of the new capabilities in the LinuxOne Emperor 4 is integrated artificial intelligence (AI) inference embedded in the hardware layer.
AI inference is the part of the process that makes a prediction or decision. Mitran said the integrated inference with LinuxOne Emperor 4 enables the inference as part of a transaction. Without the integration, inference is done in a separate process, which could increase latency.
A common use where integrated inference can help is fraud detection, which can now be done faster, without unnecessarily delaying a transaction.
“By having the AI accelerator on-chip, making it extremely fast, we can now run the inference as part of transactional workloads,” Mitran said.
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