IBM i and Linux: A Great Synergy

March 31st, 2016

Ron Gordon
Director – Power Systems

IBM i provides a highly integrated environment, of many application types on a single platform, with very good ease-of-use characteristics from a sysadmin standpoint.  Running on Power Systems, IBM i applications can take advantage of high performance, large capacity, high reliability, and leadership virtualization capabilities.   As the growth of Linux is obvious to all in the IT industry, some IBM i shops are asking, “Should Linux be investigated and why,” since all is good in IBM i land.

I believe that there are several reasons why IBM i users should look at Linux and see what it might offer them.  But first, we must recognize that Linux is an operating system, and running an operating system has no real value….  what you need to do as a business is run IT to solve business challenges at the lowest costs.  So, let’s look at a couple of considerations as to why Linux might be used in conjunction with the IBM i environment.

  1. Most of the new or enhanced applications and solutions are coming from the OpenSource community. This implies that Linux is the required operating system.  Additionally, commercial ISVs are seeing Linux as the future platform to build on, due to its broad acceptance and cross platform support.  A couple of examples are the new database structures for no-SQL and document databases (i.e., Redis Labs, Mongo, Casandra, Hadoop, etc.) and SAP HANA.  In the application arena, there are solutions like Sugar CRM and Magento, to name only a couple.
  2. Linux can run on the same Power System that is running the IBM i environment. You do not have to purchase a new system, and as Linux can run in a partition, as well as integrate and augment the IBM i applications, there is marginal increased cost.   However, I do recognize that additional capacity may be needed in order to run the new solutions (memory, cores, storage), and Linux as an OS does have a cost.  In most cases, this cost will be far less then acquiring and provisioning a new server.
  3. In many cases, the new solution areas (i.e., Redis Labs and Mongo) are optimized for performance on the Power Systems.
  4. Linux distribution choices for Power Systems include RedHat, S– USE, Ubuntu, Debian and possibly CentOS, which is coming. These are all supported by either IBM or the distributor.
  5. Infrastructure tools like PowerVC run on Linux, and seem to be the strategic direction for “cloud” and provisioning on Power Systems. As time progresses, tools such as CHEF, Docker, and Heat, will possibly become the standards for templates and application provisioning.   This is all Linux based.
  6. Cost reduction or savings may be enabled with Linux, since all  Linux applications from IBM that run on Power Linux have a PVU of 70 compared to a PVU of up to 120, when running on IBM i.  Consider if a WebSphere instance needs to be implemented or expanded: The cost of running WebSphere in a Linux partition would be considerably less than running WebSphere in an IBM i partition, due to the lower cost of Linux over IBM I, and lower PVU rating of WebSphere on Linux.
  7. Some key applications are enabling the advancements based uniquely on the Linux platform. SAP HANA is an example of this.
  8. Skills for Linux are plentiful due to the growth and popularity of the environment. There is Linux education available, as well as Linux on Power education, from several sources.
  9. Linux on Power utilizes skills and processes already in the IBM i shop since it is the same POWER system, the same PowerVM, the same devices, and the same support from IBM.





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