BLOG: IBM LinuxONE Express Server

June 9th, 2021 BLOG: IBM LinuxONE Express Server
Marianne Eggett
IBM Z Solutions Consultant


IBM announced the LinuxONE server in August 2015 as a follow on to the IBM Enterprise Linux Server. Since this time, this enterprise-class server has evolved with features that expand its hybrid cloud and mission-critical workload qualities. In 2017, IBM added support for Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM), an Open Source virtualization technology built into Linux, which is the foundation for new industry-leading container development environment. The new ability to deploy Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Z or LinuxONE running under KVM was released in Red Hat OpenShift V4.7 in February of this year. Then in May 2021, SUSE announced Rancher support on IBM Z or LinuxONE. In the world of data security, the new hardware features such as pervasive encryption stand out. Then consider the NVMe storage adaptor card supported on LinuxONE which enables flash or NVMe SSD storage that typically resides in distributed data centers. So, what else can IBM announce to raise our excitement?


IBM LinuxONE Express


On May 4th, IBM announced the IBM LinuxONE Express. The LinuxONE Express servers are small-end, cost-effective servers. It’s architected to serve the cloud environment as an ideal cloud platform for the mid-market community aiming to replace their x86 server farms. Three LinuxONE Express examples are highlighted during the May 25th Z Customer Council announcement:

  • Small LinuxONE Express: 4 IFLs with 384GB memory starting at $135,000 USD
  • Medium LinuxONE Express: 6 IFLs with 512GB memory starting at $165,000 USD
  • Large LinuxONE Express: 12 IFLs with 768GB memory starting at $275,000 USD

The LinuxONE Express servers still benefit from all the well-known RAS characteristics of IBM Z, critical to any data center. IBM highlights 5 key benefits:

  • Performance
  • Confidential Computing
  • Scalability
  • Availability
  • TCO

These benefits continue to be differentiators for IBM Z servers compared to other hardware platforms.

In an effort to simplify the server, IBM has discontinued the model LT2 Max13 in favor of a preconfigured configuration. Memory, I/O cards, and IFLs can be added prior to ship or in the field. They also can be upgraded to larger models, such as the Max21s and above, therefore growing to 65 IFLs with 16TB memory. These servers still enjoy the reserved space inside its frame for housing storage and switches, such as DS8910F or V7000. Also, the NVMe slot is preconfigured in the servers for customer installable NVMe storage. You can plan your installation on raised or non-raised floors.

The LinuxONE Express servers pre-defined hardware configurations includes:

  • 10 I/O cards: 2 OSA, 2 NVMe, 2 ROCE, and 4 FCP
  • 8U Reserved Space
  • 2 Ethernet switches
  • Dynamic Partition Manager (DPM)
  • CP Assist for Cryptographic Functions (CPACF)

LinuxONE Express servers enjoy highly discounted hardware maintenance and operating system software only available prior to the LinuxONE Express ships. In addition, IFLs, memory, select feature codes and “Soft Packages” can be added to this pre-defined hardware configuration prior to ship at a highly discounted price. The Soft Packages are:

  • Security Leader – Secure Execution, Container Hosting Foundation, Crypto Express, TKE Workstation and additional Smart Cards
  • Security Booster – Secure Execution, Container Hosting Foundation and Crypto Express
  • Virtual Package – 10 GB OSA Express 6S used for Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform and Oracle

IBM has discounted its memory! Something unheard of in the past. At nearly 1/3 the price, the LinuxONE Express supports up 4TB of memory, all at this highly discounted price when configured at time of ship.

As mentioned above, the hardware maintenance and Red Hat Enterprise Linux are discounted. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux solution includes Smart Management, High Availability and Extended Update Support, features usually priced separately, all bundled in a 3-year significantly discounted price. One caveat, this bundle offers IBM support line and not Red Hat’s technical support. SUSE and Canonical’s UBUNTU is also supported. These discounts are available on multi-year subscriptions only. As with all Linux implementation on IBM Z, this environment supports unlimited virtual guests in either KVM and z/VM hypervisors. KVM is included with the Linux subscription at no extra charge. z/VM is highly discounted when ordered with the server.

So, consider buying your anticipated 3-year capacity prior to the ship, where you will benefit from these significant discounts.

The LinuxONE Express servers were generally made available on May 25th, 2021.



Customers Take Notice at the New Total Cost of Ownership


At an initial glance, the LinuxONE Express servers are very cost competitive to an x86 solution. The IFL, or core, runs at 4.5ghz, nearly twice the speed as typical x86 cores. The chip supports SMT, simultaneous multithreading, for higher throughput. Together with the other hardware design features, fewer IFL cores run the same application compared to x86 cores. This is the same story as in prior years, but now with a significant pricing discount, your ROI can be achieved within the 2nd year or sooner, depending on your application workload characteristics. Let’s look at the new Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

With IBM Cloud Paks, savings can be in the millions compared to x86. As an example, forty(40) x86 cores of WebSphere Hybrid, the follow on from the discontinued Cloud Pak for Applications, would cost for three(3) years:

  • WebSphere Hybrid $983,000
  • An additional $240,000 for Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform (OCP)
  • Total is $1,223,000, not including x86 server hardware costs and racks

Remember, the IFL core speed is nearly twice the speed as an x86 core. This drives the consolidation ratio of x86 cores to IFLs. With a conservative consolidation ratio of four(4) x86 cores to one(1) IFL, the WebSphere Hybrid software on the 12-IFL LinuxONE Express for 3 years is:

  • WebSphere Hybrid $295,000
  • An additional $72,000 for Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform (OCP)
  • Total of $367,000

That is an $856,000 difference!! When considering a consolidation ratio of eight(8) to one(1) IFL, the software difference is $1,040,000 over the three years. And if your x86 servers are highly underutilized, the consolidation ratios increase along with your software savings! We have seen consolidation ratios as high as 17 to 1.

The software savings alone is well worth taking notice, and we haven’t even discussed overall management simplification with a single server handling your virtual server and container infrastructure.


IBM LinuxONE Express – ready to take off


If you looked at the LinuxONE servers in the past, it’s time to look again. This server is priced to save you money for your Linux applications, especially the IBM Cloud Paks. It’s worth your time to discover the value of the LinuxONE Express servers for your enterprise.

More Information
As an IBM Platinum Business Partner, Mainline has extensive experience with IBM Z mainframe systems and operating systems and we can help you with z/OS, z/VM, Linux on IBM Z, and LinuxONE. Our cloud experts can help you leverage the agility and scalability of the cloud, whether private, hybrid or public cloud, to best utilize your resources. 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.

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