On this day five years ago IBM launched LinuxONE, a new family of mission-critical Linux-only servers. In this blog, we plan to give you a behind the curtain view of how IBM brings to market a new product, discuss some highlights from the past five years, and finally share insight into where we see the next five years going for this platform. Bryan Foley and Steven Dickens, the original IBM Offering Managers who were involved in the launch, share their own retrospective of the 5-year journey of LinuxONE.
IBM has had a long-standing history of supporting the open-source community, including Linux. It was obvious in late 2014 that Linux had won the operating system wars and had become the most pervasive operating system, especially as the cloud evolved. Enterprises saw increasing use of Linux but were also concerned with deploying more mission-critical workloads on x86 systems. A small team of us in late 2014 and early 2015 looked at how we could bring the best capabilities IBM had available in the Systems portfolio and combine these with Linux and the open-source ecosystem in a package that could gain mass-market adoption. How could IBM bring increased reliability, security, performance, virtualization, vertical and horizontal scaling (we called it “diagonal scaling”) to the infrastructure on which Linux could run?
This small team designed the concept and brought it to Ross Mauri – the General Manager who would eventually lead the LinuxONE brand. The team braced for the “are you guys insane?!?” response. Instead, the team got a hearty “I really like this – flesh it out and come back to me in two weeks!” Of course, the team was elated but then realized that the hard work had just begun.
Preparing for Launch
It was very important to the team that the Linux and open source communities viewed this as an IBM contribution to the overall effort of strengthening the value of their environments and workloads. This was another step in our collective journey. Thus, the team decided the perfect venue for announcing our new baby was not some IBM event, but rather the Linux Foundation’s own LinuxCon in Seattle in August.
But August was too soon, no way we could be ready by then! “Make it so!” Ross declared it was all hands on deck, including the wider executive team across Offerings, Hardware & Software Development, Marketing, Ecosystem, Finance, Partners – everyone. Ross and his leadership team met a few times per week, identifying any issues and obstacles and figuring out how to blast through them – everyone jumped in to help, whether it was their lane or not, it didn’t matter.
During one meeting, the team was nearing the end of the scheduled time and everyone had their next meetings. Bryan asked what topics Ross wanted to focus on in the remaining time and Ross leaned back and said, “We’re not here for a good time, we’re here for a long time.” Everyone immediately started messaging their assistants to clear calendars and the meeting went on another four hours. This was one of the most productive meetings in our lives. Looking back, there is NO WAY that we would have had a successful launch without that level of engagement and commitment right at the top of the Business Unit.
Naming and Penguins
IBM decided to have some fun with the naming of the server family and drew heavily on the strong association with Linux and Penguins. There are 19 different varieties of penguins, see have some ‘interesting’ names and would not be appropriate for and IBM product names! After narrowing down the list the marketing team landed on Emperor and Rockhopper, and the penguins soon became a key part of the overall aesthetic for the launch. The trailer for the launch has a lot of fun with the penguin theme and you can check it out here.
Leveraging the Community
The IBM team felt they needed to embrace the Open Source community and make LinuxONE more than just an IBM product push. So, in conjunction with the launch of LinuxONE, IBM decided to add more to the launch. While there was a community around Linux on this chip architecture it was fragmented and disparate. Working collaboratively with the Linux Foundation and an early band of partners the community embarked on forming a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project. In a matter of weeks, this effort was bootstrapped, and the Open Mainframe Project was launched with 14 founding members including players such as SUSE and what was CA Technologies (now Broadcom). The Open Mainframe Project has grown and gone from strength to strength. The Project is hosting its inaugural event this year in September, details of which can be found here.
Launch Day – August 17th 2015 – LinuxCon Seattle
Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of the Linux Foundation described in his opening keynote how their little open source project has grown up. It was now in enterprises large and small, no longer just for tools and non-consequential work – it was ubiquitous and part of their mission-critical workloads. He was very proud of the journey the open-source community had been on. He went on to recognize that mission-critical workload needed to run on mission-critical platforms. Jim brought Ross Mauri, IBM’s GM responsible for the LinuxONE brand, on stage to discuss the brand-new platform and what it meant for the world. The BEST of IBM Systems coupled with the BEST of Linux and Open. Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical, joined Ross to announce that Ubuntu would be supporting this new platform which was a first for this chip architecture
Over the 5 years LinuxONE has grown significantly and if it were a standalone business outside of IBM it would probably have a market cap in the Unicorn range! Some of the standout deployments include such names as:
- Techcombank – This new client to IBM was a huge win for the team in 2017. The client needed a platform that would support rapid growth in new customers and spikes in demand around public holidays and realized they would need to re-architecture their core banking platform. Techcombank chose a LinuxONE platform to replace its previous x86 infrastructure. Find out more here.
- Met Office – The marketing team decided to showcase LinuxONE on WIRED and we needed an anchor client to talk about their experience on the platform. Met Office stepped up. With a need to deliver weather forecasts to over 400 state and commercial organizations the Met Office landed on a LinuxONE architecture for their Oracle and open source workloads. You can watch their comments about the platform here.
- Plastic Bank – To turn the tide on ocean plastic and help alleviate poverty on a global scale, Plastic Bank looked for technology and expertise that could allow it to innovate fast and inspire trust. Powering the Plastic Bank revolution across the world is IBM Blockchain running on a hybrid cloud infrastructure, which is based on an IBM LinuxONE platform connected to the IBM Cloud – Find out more here.
- Phoenix Systems – To help realize the potential of tokenization of assets through blockchain solutions, KORE Technologies and Phoenix Systems have developed a platform built on LinuxONE for the management of digital assets which includes with transparency, control and security. Dealing with sensitive data – security is an important factor in this company’s decision for a solution. Combining automatic encryption of data both in flight and at rest with minimal administrator access, the solution protects digital assets from both internal and external threats. To learn more click here.
Move to the IBM Cloud – Hyper Protect
As clients accelerate their journey to hybrid cloud, they need the capabilities that LinuxONE in the public cloud as well as on-premises. The IBM Cloud takes advantage of the underlying benefits of LinuxONE, especially the extreme security, and has built a robust portfolio of offerings as part of the IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Services. This allows clients to quickly spin up virtual servers, databases, or cryptography key management services in the cloud that take advantage of this level of security. To find out more about Hyper Protect click here.
The LinuxONE team is very proud of the success this platform has had in its short five-year history. However, it is just getting going. This is an exciting time in the hybrid cloud. As new capabilities like confidential computing, containerization, and orchestration, fully homomorphic encryption, the interaction between traditional and quantum computing, fintech and healthtechs, and the digital asset revolution emerge, we believe that LinuxONE is well-positioned to help clients take advantage of this shift.
Here’s to the next five years!