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Migrating to enterprise servers with Ubuntu on IBM Z

Katie Elston

on 22 January 2020

This article is more than 4 years old.

For mission-critical applications, security, reliability, and efficiency are essential. Linux excels in these areas, which is why it has become a highly popular platform for supporting key enterprise software. And for businesses looking to push the security and performance of their Linux-based applications even further, the next step is enterprise server computing.

Enterprise servers offer secure and robust platforms for mission-critical workloads – however, it has historically been difficult to migrate Linux applications from x86 architectures to the IBM Z architecture. IBM and Canonical have worked together to solve this problem by porting Ubuntu to work on both IBM Z and  IBM LinuxONE enterprise servers – including the recently released IBM z15 and LinuxONE III

With Ubuntu on IBM Z and LinuxONE, users can leverage the same tools and languages on IBM Z  as they do on all of their other Ubuntu systems. Not only does this provide businesses with a smooth migration path, it also enables developers to go from the desktop to a highly secure and reliable cloud with a seamless, agile working environment. Typical workloads include databases with sensitive personal information, as well as new solutions such as blockchain and digital asset custody.

Why migrate to Ubuntu on IBM Z and LinuxONE?

IBM Z and LinuxONE servers offer a range of benefits over x86 systems that make them uniquely suited for running mission-critical Linux workloads:

Security: Following the introduction of GDPR and in the wake of numerous high-profile breaches, it has never been more important to protect and encrypt data – especially customers’ personal information. In the past, most companies have relied on software encryption, but these solutions can carry a considerable overhead. Because software encryption takes time, users must decide which data to encrypt, creating a risk that some important information might be missed. 

IBM Z, on the other hand, supports hardware encryption which is included on every processor chip. Thanks to the speed of hardware encryption, it is completely viable for a business to encrypt ALL of its data – reducing risk, saving time, and making it easy to demonstrate regulatory compliance. What’s more, crypto keys can be stored in tamper-responsive Hardware Security Modules, where they are robustly protected if a bad actor attempts to gain access.

IBM Z and LinuxONE servers running Ubuntu can also offer a secure environment for executing applications. Once prepared and launched, these apps and their data are protected and cannot be accessed other than through the applications – not even by sysadmins. 

Agility: Running Ubuntu on IBM Z and LinuxONE provides developers with a consistent working environment from desktop to cloud. This consistency – with the same look and feel, tools, and libraries across platforms – empowers users to work more productively, accelerating development timelines.

Cloud capabilities at memory speed: With an enterprise server, organisations can deploy cloud-based applications on the same system where their data is already located. By eliminating the need to connect to an offsite, online cloud, these applications can access data far more securely and quickly.

Scalability: Public clouds and other x86 systems typically scale horizontally. That is to say, they scale out to support larger workloads through the addition of extra servers. This approach offers excellent flexibility, but with databases shared across multiple systems and with network delays between nodes, problems can arise for mission-critical databases that need to be always up-to-date and consistent. 

While IBM Z can deliver horizontal scalability through virtualisation, it also offers vertical scalability for large databases and applications. Rather than adding new machines, vertical scalability enables businesses to scale up by committing additional resources from the existing hardware. Keeping everything on the same machine cuts complexity and ensures that there is no network delay, which is invaluable in situations where databases need to be in-sync at all times and delivering a single source of truth.

Reliability: For businesses across industries, it is becoming more and more important to have applications available 24/7. IBM Z architecture is designed for continuous service delivery. It offers 99.999% or greater availability, and sophisticated disaster recovery concepts minimise the duration and impact of downtime.

Overcoming the traditional barriers to mainframe migration

In the past, moving Linux workloads from x86 to IBM Z has sometimes been a daunting prospect. The need to recompile applications and hire mainframe specialists was often enough to deter organisations from migrating. Ubuntu on IBM Z and LinuxONE takes the complexity out of the process by enabling businesses to move from Linux to Linux. 

Applications written in interpreted languages such as Java or Python are especially easy to migrate, as they can utilise the same source code on IBM Z as they do on x86 systems simply by changing interpreter. IBM has already ported a large number of open source infrastructure components and languages to IBM Z – including Go, Swift, Python, and MongoDB, to name a few – and moving to the IBM Z and LinuxONE is only getting easier as more tools continue to be made available. 

Similarly, employee skills are largely transferable between x86 and IBM Z, since users will still be working in a familiar Ubuntu environment. Getting the most out of IBM Z only requires specialist expertise at set-up, and assistance is readily available from IBM and its business partners.

Case study: Digital Asset Custody Services (DACS) 

With digital asset technology rapidly becoming mainstream, DACS saw a gap in the market for a highly secure, convenient solution for digital asset transactions and data. The startup set out to build a new platform that would enable corporations and individuals to store and transfer digital assets securely – without the delays inherent in existing, cold storage options.

DACS worked with IBM to develop the new platform, hosted on IBM LinuxONE servers running Ubuntu. Leveraging IBM Crypto Express 6S Hardware Security Module for pervasive encryption of all application data, as well as IBM Secure Service Container software to provide a secure computing environment, the IBM LinuxONE servers running Ubuntu enable DACS to deliver end-to-end security without compromising customer convenience.

To learn more about the technical side of running Ubuntu on IBM enterprise servers, check out Elizabeth K. Joseph’s blog post, where she takes a detailed look at Ubuntu on the new IBM LinuxONE III. And, sign up for our upcoming webinar, “How to protect your data, applications, cryptography and OS – 100% of the time”.

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