Open Mainframe Project – How it all started…

The last few months have been a very exciting time as the mainframe community has boot strapped the Open Mainframe Project.  Watching it grow from a concept, into a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project, with a formal board, budget, website, harnessing a community across the globe around the mainframe and Linux has been an enlightening journey and one of personal discovery for me…

The Open Mainframe Project came from a discussion that the mainframe needed to connect more with the Linux community as a whole, and while the 15-year history of Linux on the mainframe was a good news story, it was one that many in the wider open source community hadn’t heard of and worse didn’t have a way to connect with. Based on these early discussions over coffee, and in the corridors we reached out to the Linux Foundation. In the early calls with the Linux Foundation, they were patient, open-minded and let us ramble through what the industry requirements were and how Linux on mainframe as a community works today.

The Linux Foundation, had obviously done all this before (they run over 20 Collaborative Projects today) and were experts about how to take the concept and make it become a formal Collaborative Project. They walked the team through license agreements, governance structures, participation and funding models, all in a way that was never condescending and was always open to ideas and input. Early on they put a dedicated team on the Project and were as focused as we were on making this whole thing get off the ground.

As the project moved from concept to reality the task moved from how we documented it to one of recruiting members. This is where the fun began! Members of the Open Mainframe Project firstly need to be a member of the Linux Foundation and it appears that the people we were trying to recruit weren’t already members. All in all to get our 13 founding members we had to conclude 18 separate contracts! The legal team at the Linux foundation were amazing, so diligent and supportive throughout… However even with the backing of the Linux Foundation the project would not have gotten anywhere without the dedication of the founding members. To a company, they quickly got on board and signed up in days, with no complaints, such  is, there desire to see Linux on the mainframe be the success the technology so richly deserves.

So enough about how the Project got off the ground, lets discuss what the project is all about. The Linux Foundation has Collaborative Projects for everything from Drones, through the Automotive industry to Telecoms, they all share the same mission, to bring like minded companies and individuals together to collaborate around a common goal, where Linux and Open Source derived software is at the core. The Open Mainframe Project is the same. The Project’s mission is:

The Open Mainframe Project is intended to serve as a focal point for deployment and use of the Linux OS in a mainframe computing environment.  The Project intends to increase collaboration across the mainframe community and to developed shared tool sets and resources. Furthermore, the Project seeks to involve the participation of academic institutions to assist in teaching and educating the mainframe Linux engineers and developers of tomorrow.

The mission of the Open Mainframe Project is to:

  • Create an open source, technical community that industry and community participants may easily participate in and so that they may contribute to the creation of assets and materials that will benefit the ecosystem around Linux and open source software on the mainframe;
  • Include participation of leading members of the ecosystem, including end users, solution providers, application developers and systems administrators to ensure the Open Mainframe Project addresses the needs of the community; and
  • Host the infrastructure for the open source project, establishing a neutral home for community meetings, events and collaborative discussions and providing structure around the business and technical governance of the project.

In order to achieve this mission we needed Academic, Corporate and End Users of the technology, and with the 13 Founding members we achieved this with everyone from a number of Universities, a Cloud Provider, a Linux Distro, a Services organisation and numerous software companies and of course IBM getting on board. A point of note is that IBM has no special significance or status within the governance structure of the Project, we are a founding Platinum member and have the same voting rights on the board as 5 other members, no more, no less.

So we managed to get all this in place a few days before the 17th August the Linux Foundation were able to launch the Open Mainframe Project. You can check out the press release here.

A lot has happened since August with the Project and that will be the subject of a subsequent blog post in the next few weeks. Hopefully this first post will be the first of many more to come where we can cover the growth of Linux on the Mainframe and wider engagement with the community as a whole.




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