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IBM Z Offerings Help Clients Take Advantage of the Cloud

The cloud was once considered simply part of the computing stack—an extension of the data center that hosted non-critical applications and data sets seemingly in the air. Now for many organizations, however, it’s become an essential part of operations, allowing them to more quickly deploy new technologies and nimbly respond to changing market forces.

As Nathan Dotson, offering manager, IBM Z* Cloud, notes, “Across all industries, disruptive newcomers are shaking up the landscape through novel innovations and by leveraging technologies available in the cloud. This enables them to develop and go to market with far greater speed and agility than well-established veterans. As a result, those veterans are increasingly looking to capitalize on and unlock IBM Z as a critical and differentiating asset in their cloud journey.”

In response to this, IBM has created a number of services as part of its IBM Z initiative. IBM Z servers are the foundation of the enterprise cloud data center, supporting massive transaction scales, with low costs along with high-volume workloads. This creates an open and connected environment that allows developers to seamlessly create today’s crucial business applications and deliver them in unique ways.

“With its abilities to support open technologies—while also providing incomparable security and resilience—the IBM Z platform is ideal for cloud-based, mission-critical data and workloads. It provides highly differentiated offerings, such as Bluemix*, LinuxONE* and OpenStack, and value across industries, allowing users to realize their value as never before,” Dotson adds.

What follows is an exploration of the six cloud offerings along with the types of workloads they are best suited for.

Hosted Services

IBM Cloud Managed Services on Z or “zCloud” is a hosted multitenant cloud service available in 18 countries worldwide. It allows users to have IBM manage their mainframe environment, including the infrastructure, networking, backups and ongoing systems administration. The zCloud services include z/OS* and Linux*, with IBM administrators handling user ID management, database administration, OS, OS patches and upgrades.

“We’re offering clients LPARs on an IBM-owned box in an IBM data center. The first phase begins with moving your workload to the IBM environment. Then we have some 6,500 mainframe specialists within IBM Global Technology Services around the world who run and operate the mainframe and provide it back as a service,” explains Steven Dickens, global offering manager, zCloud, IBM Global Technology Services.

“We keep our zCloud subsystem and hardware up to date so users don’t have to stay on the ‘hamster wheel’ of keeping their infrastructure current. We do this while offering small and medium-sized clients savings of 20 to 30 percent over traditional single tenant on-premises operational models.”

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Making Connections

IBM Bluemix, a cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS), is used to build composite applications for the cloud. For example, if someone wants to gain access to MongoDB and connect to pieces of middleware to build applications, which can be run, deployed and managed on the IBM SoftLayer* infrastructure, this would be the tool to use.

According to Frank De Gilio, CTO for IT modernization, IBM Systems, “It can be used to prototype new applications in minutes with minimal coding, combine information from the mainframe with the latest IBM Watson* technologies to create new insights into customers, and take advantage of third-party services to connect to customers in new ways.”

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Unlock New Value

IBM z/OS Connect opens up pieces of business logic, data and transactions across systems and their z/OS subsystems as RESTful APIs, leveraging tools such as IBM Application Discovery and Delivery Intelligence, which allow users to discover and unlock new value from their most valuable asset: existing code. And thanks to z/OS Connect, IBM Z modernization projects can take place in a fraction of the time traditionally associated with such efforts.

“People want to connect to their back-end systems of record, including Db2* for z/OS, with various different RESTful APIs and SOAP interfaces because new web and mobile applications have to be able to integrate with those resources. The API framework we offer with z/OS Connect offers all of that, allowing users to turn current transaction and application components as services to born-on-the-cloud applications,” Dotson adds.

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Creating Linux Guests

OpenStack is an open-source software platform for cloud computing that forms an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) stack, with virtual servers and other resources being made available to cloud users. It can be used with open-source software to create private and public clouds; control large pools of compute, storage and networking resources via a web-based dashboard or the OpenStack API; and manage complex heterogeneous environments.

“If you were running Linux on the platform, you could leverage OpenStack and we’d effectively gear up for the Linux guests as a service. What you run in that Linux guest is up to you. We’d handle the z/VM* layer, the Linux OS and hand it over as a service at that level. This could also apply to enterprise applications, analytics and web and mobile applications. It’s a very flexible environment,” Dickens notes.

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Leverage the Community

The LinuxONE Community Cloud provides easy and open access VMs on Z to developers, academia, business partners and clients, many of whom have expressed a desire to work on the mainframe without having to purchase one. All that’s needed to access the cloud is an internet ID and cellphone. Within seconds, the requestor will receive credentials to log on and deploy a VM for 120 days. Users are free to install many of the readily available open-source software packages that fit their needs and interests.

“In recent months, we’ve accelerated the developer reach-out programs, and in conjunction with the IBM Z announcement, we announced the Unchain The Frame hackathon, where thousands of users worldwide will be using the LinuxONE Community Cloud to come up with new applications using hyperledger and/or Docker developer journeys in the cloud,” says Karl Duvalsaint, project executive, LinuxONE Cloud.

“As we move forward, we’ll be deploying additional developer journeys on the cloud as a means to let developers write new applications efficiently and in an agile fashion to accelerate growth on the platform.”

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Advanced Mainframe Capabilities

IBM microservices involves the cloud deployment of independent mainframe services. If, for example, a user doesn’t have a mainframe but wants to deploy Db2 for z/OS, she can request that IBM set up an LPAR on a cloud-based mainframe to host it. This relieves costs and skills concerns related to the purchase and maintenance of a mainframe.

“If you don’t want the rest of the z/OS environment and all you want is Db2, we could provide that for clients,” Dickens says. “Typically, what we’d do is move a client’s entire environment onto a cloud-based mainframe LPAR, but in this case, it’d be a client that doesn’t have any an existing z/OS environment and only wants to interact with Db2 as a service.

“The same would also apply to IMS* or CICS*. If you have only a single mainframe application, you may want a database and a combination CICS and IMS as a service—without any other mainframe elements. This is a very cost-effective way to take advantage of advanced mainframe capabilities.”

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