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SUSE, IBM Z and LinuxONE: Celebrating the First 20 Years

By Alan Clark | CTO, Directing Industry Initiatives & Emerging Standards, SUSE
September 11, 2020

In 1999, as the digitized world approached the year 2000, all thoughts were on “Y2K,” and what it would mean for the millions of lines of code that ran the computers for business and...

In 1999, as the digitized world approached the year 2000, all thoughts were on “Y2K,” and what it would mean for the millions of lines of code that ran the computers for business and government. Would switching the two-digit year from “99” to “00” cause massive systems failures and chaos? Would our ATMs stop working, and airplanes fall out of the sky? In the midst of this perceived crisis, hardly anybody was thinking about the future impact of porting Linux to the mainframe.

Skip ahead 20 years, and many technological changes have fundamentally altered the ways we live, work and see the world. Camera phones have given everyone the power to document our times. The internet has gone from a “like to have” to an essential component of consumer-facing commerce, back-end operations, education, social services and even medicine. Far from being the “end of the world” for digital devices, the year 2000 marked the beginning of an unprecedented boom in innovation and collaboration – perhaps none more profound in the world of business IT than combining the power of the IBM mainframe with the possibilities of Linux.

The concept of open source software was still in its infancy when Linux began making significant inroads into commercial data centers – assuming increasingly critical roles in business operations. Opportunities for innovation were wide open as SUSE introduced commercial Linux to the IBM s/390 mainframe – now IBM Z – in the fall of 2000. Since then, SUSE and IBM have continued to watch Linux grow and gain acceptance throughout the business world.

Today, more businesses choose SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) for IBM Z and LinuxONE than any other Linux for running workloads on IBM mainframes. The reasons are self-evident. SLES is optimized for IBM mainframes, and businesses want to focus on serving their customers – not managing their IT. And the proven engineering excellence of the IBM mainframe, combined with the agility and business value of Linux, enable businesses to accelerate innovation to keep pace with constantly changing market dynamics.

Despite the tendency of some to dismiss mature technologies, neither Linux nor the mainframe could in any way be considered “outmoded” or “antique.” The issue isn’t age. It’s quality, reliability, security and an ongoing ability to innovate and adapt to change. As countless commoditization cycles within the IT industry have written lesser technologies into the history books, Linux on the mainframe is enabling businesses to write the next chapter in their story of digital transformation. Indeed, Gartner’s 2019 assessment that “open source is becoming the backbone for driving digital innovation” speaks both to the innovative capabilities of Linux and to the continued reliability and security of the IBM mainframe.

Many of the world’s exciting innovations in business IT are being developed and deployed via Linux on the mainframe. Traditional industries such as finance and retail are finding new ways to remain competitive using hybrid cloud and AI – running on Linux and the mainframe – to make the most of their data in service to their customers. While newer types of workloads to manage digital currencies, global scientific research and emerging industries continue to demand the highly available, reliable and secure computing provided by Linux on the mainframe.

The distinguishing features Linux on the mainframe will enable both to play essential roles in mission-critical business operations for many years to come. We’ve come a long way in our first 20 years, and have much to be proud of. But envisioning the possibilities of the next 20 years makes us even more excited about the future of Linux on IBM Z.


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