BLOG: Benefits of z/OS Container Extensions on IBM Z

April 17th, 2020 BLOG: Benefits of z/OS Container Extensions on IBM Z
Andy Hartman
Senior Consultant


If you are running IBM z/OS 2.4 or planning to upgrade to this release soon, you should be looking at z/OS Container Extensions. z/OS Container Extensions (zCX) is a new feature within z/OS 2.4 that allows you to run Linux applications in a Docker container environment in a z/OS address space using your existing z/OS system management skills. z/OS Container Extensions come as a complete implementation of the Linux kernel and the Docker environment so that all you need to provide are the images you wish to run as containers on z/OS.

As application development moves to the cloud and continuous development and continuous delivery have become an expectation, containers are the choice for developing new microservices and applications. Currently on Docker Hub there are various images that can run on Linux on IBM Z. These same images can be deployed within z/OS Container Extensions. They range from open source projects like Nginx or MongoDB to IBM software like MQ and WebSphere. Running these applications in z/OS Containers can take advantage of proximity to z/OS applications like CICS, DB2, and others. The images are deployed and the containers are managed using regular Docker commands just like you would use on any other Docker platform. The best applications to run in these containers would be ones that complement existing z/OS applications and those that are co-located, running the containers within z/OS address spaces.

IBM z/OS Container Extensions Management

From a z/OS systems programmer’s standpoint, this solution allows you to manage this new environment with tools you are already familiar with. You don’t have to stand up a Linux LPAR or guest under z/VM or KVM to run containers. The installation is done using SMP/E and z/OSMF and is controlled by the same security and workload management processes you are already accustomed to using. System recovery is also done the same way you would recover any other address space and can be managed in a sysplex environment.

Management of these address spaces is performed using z/OS commands that you would use for any other z/OS address space to start, stop, and manage the address space. You inherit the z/OS quality of service for security, workload management, communications, etc. For example, you can reduce latency for communications by utilizing virtual networking in memory between your z/OS applications and your container applications.

The container workloads are eligible to be offloaded to IBM z Systems Integrated Information Processors (ZIIPs), reducing your costs for licensing on general-purpose engines. z/OS Container Extensions are run as an appliance, so this means that you don’t have to worry about the underlying Linux or Docker environment; it’s all maintained as a closed environment with the well-established management facilities you are already used to on z/OS.

What You’ll Need to Implement z/OS Container Extensions

If you don’t currently have Container Hosting Foundation (feature code 104) and you’re running a z14 or z15, there is a 90-day trial available so you can test it out first. To run it in a production environment, you will need to purchase feature code 104. Depending on your Docker workload requirements, you may need additional memory and processing power for your new workloads. The other components that are required to run Container Extensions are included in z/OS 2.4.

The biggest benefits for z/OS Container Extensions are the ability to manage a container environment utilizing your existing z/OS system management skills and take advantage of containerized applications on repositories like Docker Hub and others that have been built to run on Linux on IBM Z and complement your existing z/OS applications.

More Information
As an IBM Platinum Business Partner, Mainline has extensive experience with IBM mainframe systems and operating systems, and we can help you with z/OS, z/VM, Linux on IBM Z, and LinuxOne. To set up an in-depth discussion about how to get started using these technologies, please contact your Mainline Account Executive directly or click here to contact us with any questions.

Related Blogs, Videos, and Documentation:

Demonstration: Installing and deploying Docker and simple Docker containers on IBM Z.

z/OS Container Extensions (zCX) Content Solution

Getting started with z/OS Container Extensions and Docker

z/OS Version 2 Release 4 – IBM z/OS Container Extensions Guide

z/OS Container Extensions – Linux on Z docker containers inside z

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