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2018 Mainframe Year in Review

By | January 17, 2019

Steven Dickens, host of the “I am A Mainframer” Podcast & Open Mainframe Project Marketing Chair, recently penned a blog for Mainframe Debate. Steven takes an in-depth look into the role that mainframe technology played in 2018, including the release of OMP’s Zowe project. 

As 2019 kicks off its still (just about) time to review 2018 in the world of the mainframe. This technology platform despite its advancing years is still evolving and re-defining itself and continuing to stay at the forefront of enterprise computing.  In this blog, we will look back on what this writer thinks are the seminal moments in the mainframe world in 2018.


I had the pleasure to be ‘in the room where it happened’, if you will excuse the Hamilton play reference, when Zowe launched at SHARE in St Louis this summer. Zowe is an open source project hosted by the Open Mainframe Project which is a collaborative project under the Linux Foundation structure.  Zowe offers modern interfaces to interact with z/OS and allows you to work with z/OS in a way that is similar to what you experience on cloud platforms today. You can use these interfaces as delivered or through plug-ins and extensions that are created by clients or third-party vendors.  Zowe consists of the following main components.


While the tech is cool and you should look to get involved in how this code base develops, for me the more interesting thing is the Open Source, crowd sourced nature of the project.  z/OS has long been the poster child for a closed. proprietary, single company developed OS.  This changed with the launch of Zowe.  IBM opening up the core of z/OS to the wider community and letting everyone have access via GitHub and just get stuck in is huge, and for me at least is the arbiter for things to come for the platform as a whole.

ICP Manage-from capability

IBM’s Cloud Platform or ICP is the future of software for how IBM envisages multi and hybrid cloud management.  We see clients deploying private, public and hybrid clouds in increasing complexity. The whole cloud space is maturing with clients, quite rightly, seeing the various pros and cons of various on and off premises models as well as looking for sourcing variety in their public cloud deployments.  IBM is as far as I can tell the only vendor that sees this multi, hybrid model as the future for clients and is building solutions for this reality, while others look to drive vendor lock-in.

The mainframe is a large part of a client’s IT estate and rightly has a strategic role to play in how this private cloud platform interacts with other on-premises and public cloud instances.  ICP will manage this cloud orchestration and provisioning layer in a multi-platform way.  Further with the announcement of ICP manage from, clients can now look to deploy the management nodes directly on their mainframe or LinuxONE platform.  This is huge for clients who want to deploy the mainframe as a cloud manager and not have to rely on commodity x86.

Blockchain on premises

2018 was the year where Blockchain spilt over into the public consciousness, mainly as the underlying platform for Bitcoin, but for the business community not having an active Blockchain project probably meant you weren’t ‘cool’.  IBM has long offered enterprise Blockchain based on LinuxONE technology on the IBM Cloud.  This enabled clients to take advantage of both the resilience and security of LinuxONE as they looked to deploy their Blockchain projects. However the public cloud was the only IBM supported deployment option.  Not now. IBM Blockchain Platform now enables clients to deploy a supported hyperledger fabric and all of the required management tooling behind their firewall and on-premises.  This enables clients to take greater control of their infrastructure, rest easier about data residency and also explore models where their Blockchain deployment can sit on the same infrastructure as their ‘system of record’.  This choice to be able to deploy on LinuxONE in your own datacenter, will, in my opinion, drive new innovative uses cases and widen the deployment of Blockchain as a technology.


IBM late in 2018 signed a multi-year strategic relationship with Samsung Electronics where the latter will fabricate the IBM designed next generation of 7nm based Z and LinuxONE chips.  This long-term strategic partnership cements the future of the platform and reconfirms the long-term commitment by IBM to the mainframe and LinuxONE platforms for many years to come… This is definitely an announcement you will want to read more on, so check out the IBM press release here.

ZR1 & Rockhopper II

Finally, no mainframe review of 2018 could go to press without referring to the ZR1 and Rockhopper II launch mid-year.  Having the mainframe ship in an industry standard form factor is significant in so many ways for the platform.  A few years back I met with the head of datacenter design for a co-location datacenter where hyperscale cloud providers hosted their infrastructure.  This person was new to the mainframe, and after listening to my pitch they were impressed with what the box had to offer.  However, the physical dimensions of the box were an issue.  When I dug deeper the client responded: “well apart from being too deep, too wide, too tall, the heat flow being back to front and the cables coming out of the wrong place, the box is a great fit for our environment.”  All of this changed with the ZR1 and Rockhopper II.

All in all a pretty seminal year for the Mainframe platform, Open Source development in z/OS, Blockchain, Cloud, Chip development and new boxes launched to much fanfare.  With what I know about the plans for 2019, this year plans to be just as exciting…

Read more at Mainframe Debate.