Mainframe Computing in Transition: Open Source Projects and Changing Hardware Landscape – Infrastructure Matters Episode 8

Mainframe Computing in Transition: Open Source Projects and Changing Hardware Landscape – Infrastructure Matters Episode 8

In this episode of Infrastructure Matters, hosts Camberley Bates, Krista Macomber, and Steven Dickens discuss various topics related to the tech industry and mainframe computing. They begin by mentioning upcoming events like VMware Explore and Google Next. Steven Dickens talks about his Forbes article covering the Open Enterprise Linux Association, which involves SUSE, Oracle, and Six collaborating to support a forked version of RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). The conversation touches on the importance of choice and community collaboration in the open-source space.

Topics include:

  • Upcoming industry events, open-source collaboration, and mainframe computing
  • Steven Dickens discusses the collaboration between SUSE, Oracle, and Six to support a forked version of RHEL and the importance of choice in the open-source community
  • Krista Macomber highlights AWS Storage Day’s focus on data protection and resiliency, especially in the context of cloud-based backup and air gap storage
  • We discuss the SHARE Conference, with an emphasis on its changing demographics and the growth of Linux on the mainframe
  • We also touch on open-source projects in the mainframe community and the evolving landscape of mainframe computing

You can watch the video of our conversation below, and be sure to visit our YouTube Channel and subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.

Listen to the audio here:

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Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this webcast. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this webcast.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.


Camberley Bates: Good morning. Hey, this is Camberley Bates. We’re back here with Infrastructure Matters and my besties here, Krista Macoomber’s up in New Hampshire. Steve Dickens who is in New York, and Camberley Bates and I’m in Boulder, Colorado. So welcome to the next edition of this. We’ve got some great stuff lined up for you. First of all, a couple of announcements that we’ve had, it’s August, so it’s not quite as fast and they’re making us hold everything because we’ve got two big shows coming up. Next week is VMware Explore and the week after that is Google Next. So there’s lots of stuff coming out. We’ll talk about those two weeks, but first kind of what’s been up and about. So Steve, you have something that you want to chat about I think had to do with Oracle.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, so I wrote a Forbes article covering the Open Enterprise Linux Association. There’s been lots going on in the open source community over the last six weeks, maybe a bit longer. We had Magnus Halixon, the GM of the Red Hat business talking about some of their announcements that kind of kicked all this off on one of our shows. So, we’ll provide the show notes to that and the link, but really this was SUSE, Oracle and CIQ getting together to really codify what they’re going to do with support for a forked version of RHEL. So, interesting goes to the whole-

Camberley Bates: Why are they doing another fork version of RHEL?

Steven Dickens: Well, so we had Alma and Rocky kind of doing that based off the CentOS, kind of source and Red Hat made some announcements of what their plans are for CentOS stream as a sort of testing ground if you will for RHEL. As I say, Gunner does a lot better job of it than me, but I think the net of this for me is choice is good, community collaboration is good. Customers having options of what they want to do, whether that’s, they want to go and buy a commercial version from RHEL, whether they want to go and get support from SUSE or Oracle or work with the OpenELA, whatever they want to do. I think the community’s at its best when there’s options and choices. So, I think the team at Red Hat are doing a great job of contributing and will continue to be one of the biggest contributors into the Linux Kernel going forward. That’s not going to change, but I think some of these kind of downstream support options, more choice is a good thing. So as I said, we’ll put some links in the show notes to a couple of articles and things that if people want to double click they can go there and find out more.

Camberley Bates: One of the things that I’ve noted and I can’t say what vendor it was because I don’t think it was public knowledge at this point, big win at one of the big providers in the market space for a file system area and the software was going to go on OCP, the open compute project architectures. It’s kind of this interesting thing, for a very long time, open source and open projects seem to be the backend stuff. Now with the power of the hyperscalers and the super network guys like Facebook or Meta and those kinds of folks, they’re building their own products. So therefore this open source, the openness of things that are becoming viable and maybe features a bit more viable longterm. And then I’ll bring that out because one other thing that I didn’t mention about Flash Memory Summit is the amount announcements that we had on those kinds of platforms or maybe more open platforms.

So, consistently coming out from Western Digital with our open flex data 24 NVMe over fabric offering, we saw Viking come out with their Viking Enterprise solutions, which is a big stack box with NVMe. Super Micro rolled out their big stack box. I mean usually you think of them as servers but they also have the storage product line that’s out there. They seem to be making more move into it and those moves are going into not necessarily the core enterprise companies, but they’re going into some of these MSPs or larger cloud providers, et cetera that are building their own environment. So, I would kind of call those quasi open. They’re still proprietary but not quite. So anyway, that’s where that goes. Krista, I know you have… Go ahead.

Steven Dickens: Up and down the stack, we’re seeing things get more and more open. I’ll talk about some of the stuff I saw in the mainframe space this week around open… I think that going back to the Red Hat and CentOS and OpenELA, it’s the commercial models off the top of the open source code basis that are the interesting thing. But Krista, I cut in front of you.

Camberley Bates: All yours Krista, you have some stuff that came up with AWS, I think.

Krista Macomber: Yes. Yeah, so this is actually, excuse me, a couple of weeks ago AWS had its Storage Day, which I attended with our colleague Dave Rafa. So he and I actually put our heads together on a writeup and similar to Steven, we’ll make sure to put a link to that writeup in the show notes here. Specifically what I was interested in is the kind of data protection and inside resiliency related announcements, especially considering the fact that we are seeing cloud storage is becoming very popular as a backup target and even as kind of an air gap or long-term storage repository. So specifically, there was a few announcements coming out of the AWS Storage Days related to that. One was support for SnapLock for Amazon FSX for NetApp ONTAP. And the takeaway for this is the ability to use Amazon FSX to create immutable snapshots. And what I really liked about this in particular was that not only was there announced support for just the general immutability, but also that there was the support for what they call, “Compliance mode.”

So, the distinguishing factor here is that there is no role within the organization that can either change or remove or otherwise tamper with those designations for immutability. And we do see that that is a requirement not only for compliance as you might infer based on the name, but also increasingly based on some of these cyber attacks that we’re seeing where there might be a malicious actor that is able to penetrate that storage repository based on hacked credentials or something like that. So, that was one thing that was to me very interesting and I think an important capability from the standpoint of using AWS storage infrastructure for backups.

They also had a couple other announcements. One was what they’re calling a logically air gap storage vault hosted through AWS backup. This storage environment also has the ability to create immutable backup copies. Encryption is enabled by default and those encryption keys are actually stored and managed by AWS.So the customer doesn’t necessarily need to worry about that.

Now this is an interesting segment of the market because as I was mentioning a couple of minutes ago, we are seeing that there’s interest in these cloud hosted air gapped environments, but what’s important is that we need to make sure that this isn’t just us storing backup copies in any storage infrastructure. So, really looking for additional capabilities to make sure that this environment is truly an air gap. And I think AWS is adding a couple of important features like that encryption, that immutability. I’ll be keeping an eye on this space to see any other additional controls and capabilities that they might be adding such as the ability to validate data integrity or maybe to control that air gapping process and maybe sever the connection to that vault environment when data’s not being transmitted into those important features.

Camberley Bates: And I know there was a bunch of other ones that they enhanced, their luster piece as well as their Windows files capability, et cetera. It’s just kind of that ongoing upgrade and improvement of performance, et cetera.

Krista Macomber: Yeah, yeah. So those from a storage resiliency standpoint, those were a couple of the ones that really jumped out to me. And like you mentioned Camberley, I know Dave covered a number of others as well. So, the link to that full writeup would be in the show notes for those who are interested.

Camberley Bates: All right, cool. Thank you. Okay, so one big topic today is talking about the SHARE Conference. So, for us mainframe bigots, I go back to the 30-33.

Steven Dickens: Bigots, fan boys, fan girls. I mean, hey.

Camberley Bates: So, let’s put that in place. Back into putting big boxes into the big, big boxes that would show up on trucks.

Steven Dickens: Well, they’re not as big as they used to be.

Camberley Bates: No, they’re not. How many people were there?

Steven Dickens: A couple of generations ago they went to 19 inch racks. So, they’re no bigger than anything else these days. And then in the last version they put them so you could put them in your own rack. So, they’re now rack mounted. So, gone are the days where a mainframe fills a room.

Camberley Bates: So, how many people were at the conference? And they’re all gray heads?

Steven Dickens: You’d be surprised actually. I mean that’s the perception, right? I had a chance on the final day to interview some college kids. The community’s done a really good job over the last probably five or six years of acknowledging that there’s a skills gap. You’ve still got a bunch of the people who’ve been around the industry for years, but there’s a lot more focus. Broadcom’s doing some really good work with a Beyond Code program to place people into the community and really sponsor their first year working at a customer so that they can get the skills. Because it’s a chicken and egg problem, right? You’ve got to get somebody to get the skills, but people don’t have the skills. Employers don’t want to recruit somebody that doesn’t have the skills. So Broadcom’s done a good job of picking on that piece.

I had dinner on Wednesday night with one of the guys going through that program and he’s getting a lot of training, a lot of involvement and Broadcom’s funding that first year of this gentleman’s career, placing them at a company after the first six to eight weeks of training and they’re even funding that first year. So the conference has changed. I’ve been going for probably 10 years and It’s really changed. There’s a lot more college kids and younger stage professionals. But, there’s about 1500, 2,000 people at the conference. It’s a pretty techie event. I had a chance to speak to Scott Fagan, the president of SHARE, it’s a use of event, so it’s not a vendor sponsored kind of vendor centric event, although the vendors have got booths and kind of bring a lot of people. It’s a real community event.

So they’re back to where they were pre covid, which I think is good. I think the biggest takeaway from me, and it’s linked to what you were just saying, Krista, around some of the storage piece. I had a chance to speak to Eddy Ciliendo from 21CS about some of the announcements that 21CS and IBM have done around cloud object storage. I think the innovation that’s going on in the cloud object storage space is now very definitely connected to the mainframe space.

Camberley Bates: So, is that cloud object storage, the IBM’s cloud object storage or is that a different cloud object storage you’re talking about? Because they have a class-

Steven Dickens: Yeah, any cloud you want.

Camberley Bates: So, their using as a generic term as opposed to their branded term. Okay.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, for sure. So, I think there’s a lot of acknowledgement that people are going to be on AWS, they’re going to be on Microsoft, they’re going to be on Google. I didn’t catch actually whether there is a connection to the IBM cloud object storage. I would assume so, but I’d need to check. The other piece, we had the CEO of VirtualZ and they call it VirtualZ, but I’m British, so it’s still Z in my world and they’re doing solutions for connectivity to and from the public cloud with regard to data. So I think, we’re kind of at an inflection point of the mainframe used to be connected to ECKD, big multi-tier, expensive storage from HPE, Hitachi, EMC. I think certainly for the backup tier and looking at where the VTL part of the market is, I think the mindset is shifting of, “Do we need virtual tape libraries on-prem connected to our mainframe or do we need that data up in the cloud?” So, the solution-

Camberley Bates: Sorry, we did some work on that last year when Randy presented at SHARE last year when we did that work for them.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, I mean BMC’s got solutions in that space with the acquisition of Model9. Broadcom’s got solutions with their CA-One piece, we’ve now seen IBM and 21CS collaborate in this space. I think that’s good that there’s competition and customers have got options. I think they all validate that the model is moving to the cloud for certainly that VTL immutable copy all the things you were just talking about there, Krista is technology on the other end and now being seen as targets for the mainframe, which is fantastic.

Krista Macomber: Absolutely.

Camberley Bates: So, what was probably the big focus for the conference this year? I mean last year of course we had the release of the new Z so it was all super excited.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, and I was involved in this back in the day when I was at IBM, was there’s a open source project within the Open Mainframe project, I’m using their Yeti cooler today. The Open Mainframe project was set up back in 2015 as an open source sort of community around the mainframe and probably the biggest project had its fifth birthday at the show. This is a really strong collaborative effort around really modernizing some of the interfaces and GUIs and some of the kind of stuff that maybe has held the mainframe back. Back in the day, Broadcom, Rocket, and IBM donated a code base that they’d been collaborating on and since that’s been picked up and really become the biggest code base within this Linux Foundation collaborative project. So, those guys were all celebrating their fifth anniversary of the project.

That was probably the big news at the show. A lot of vendors kind use SHARE as a way to launch minor releases. There was zOS release about a week before the show. So, I’ve got to dig in on that with Matt Whitborn, the product manager for that. We sort of spoke at the show so there’s some good things there around the zOS three dot release. But I think open source on the mainframe, which kind of still sounds counterintuitive to a lot of people, you don’t kind of see the mainframe as a platform for open source. But I think it’s now moving to the point where it’s mainstream adoption.

Camberley Bates: The mainframe has been there and as somebody says, “Social security runs on mainframe.” So for the rest of our lives, whatever age you are a hundred years from now, you’re going to be getting your check from that mainframe because the amount of code that’s there just rewriting that would be absolutely ridiculous. But are we seeing any new real application showing up on the mainframe or is it still historical that is staying there is not going anywhere. So, we’ll maintain and update the applications and that sort of thing, but is it changing at all?

Steven Dickens: Well, I think you’ve got two speeds. You’ve got people looking at modernizing the applications that they’ve got, a number of different approaches for that. I think the guys at Kyndryl have got a really good sort of route for that. It’s modernize the application you’ve got where it is. Modernize it with the cloud, something we were just talking about maybe bring cloud object storage or maybe there’s other services that you change the mix, so there’s a mainframe component and a cloud component. And then the final option for some of the workloads is it should never have been on a mainframe. It was their leg for legacy reasons and you should modernize it and take it off. So, I think there’s kind of three buckets of activity going on. So, that’s the kind one piece around those core zOS, VSC type workloads.

The other piece is Linux on the mainframe is growing like gama busters, it’s one of the fastest growing parts of IBM right now. They launched LinuxONE, Linux only variation based on the same chip architecture back in 2015. That is getting huge traction with some of the big players now we’re looking at maybe database as a service within their own infrastructure. So, Citi have done a big job around consolidating MongoDB, for instance onto LinuxONE. So, That’s just a big-

Camberley Bates: Onto mainframe. So, LinuxONE with MongoDB, sitting on a mainframe, which is not something-

Steven Dickens: Well, it all depends what you define as a mainframe. I mean it’s-

Camberley Bates: Exactly right, exactly. Yeah. So, however we’re using it is some of the big systems that we have. It’s kind of rethinking what we really see as terms of what is the hardware like I was talking about with the open systems and the OCP kind of things. The unique architecture that’s going on, the design that’s happening.

Steven Dickens: Yeah, I mean the s390x chip architecture that runs on the Telum Processor, it’s the same Telum Processor that runs in the z16, but it’s a different box. A Linux person’s going to log onto that box, there’s going to be no mainframe ness about it. It’s just a big Linux server running rail, running SLS, running CentOS, Debian and all the major variants of Linux that run on this box. It’s just a Linux server at the end of the day.

Camberley Bates: Yeah, exactly. Awesome. Anything else that you want to bring up from SHARE or some of the other stuff we’re talking about?

Steven Dickens: But we recorded a whole bunch of videos, some good stuff that the team at BMC are doing. We recorded four videos with those, we’ll put the links to those in the show notes. Really a strong focus on DevOps from those guys. I’ve covered in the past, what they’re doing around DORA metrics and really looking to change that entire developer experience. So, I got chance to spend some time with Dave Jeffries, their VP of product management over there. We recorded a session on the show, but got really chance over dinner to have a chat with him and dig into what they’re doing. Some fascinating stuff, some good announcements coming out of those guys again, which we’ll cover in the videos.

But I think it’s really interesting for me, people see that kind of mainframe space, small vendors, relatively new vendors, startups, it’s a pretty vibrant ecosystem. Obviously big established names like IBM and Broadcom and BMC that have been around for decades in that space, but also a rich startup ecosystem and no startups getting bought and lots of consolidation. So, a microcosm of the industry.

Camberley Bates: Well that would be our wrap up for SHARE. I don’t know if we got anything else that Krista you want to bring up on here. Otherwise, we’ll wrap it up for the day and talk to you next week. How about that?

Steven Dickens: Fantastic.

Krista Macomber: Sounds good to me.

Steven Dickens: Don’t forget to click and subscribe, do all those.

Camberley Bates: Well, I’m going to say that. I’m going to click and subscribe. Thank you very much. Enjoy your week and we will love to see you guys. Well, one of these days we have to see all the people that are watching us. That’d be fun. All right, Krista, thank you very much. Steve, thank you very much. Have a great day folks.

Krista Macomber: Thank you all.

Author Information

Camberley brings over 25 years of executive experience leading sales and marketing teams at Fortune 500 firms. Before joining The Futurum Group, she led the Evaluator Group, an information technology analyst firm as Managing Director.

Her career has spanned all elements of sales and marketing including a 360-degree view of addressing challenges and delivering solutions was achieved from crossing the boundary of sales and channel engagement with large enterprise vendors and her own 100-person IT services firm.

Camberley has provided Global 250 startups with go-to-market strategies, creating a new market category “MAID” as Vice President of Marketing at COPAN and led a worldwide marketing team including channels as a VP at VERITAS. At GE Access, a $2B distribution company, she served as VP of a new division and succeeded in growing the company from $14 to $500 million and built a successful 100-person IT services firm. Camberley began her career at IBM in sales and management.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in International Business from California State University – Long Beach and executive certificates from Wellesley and Wharton School of Business.

With a focus on data security, protection, and management, Krista has a particular focus on how these strategies play out in multi-cloud environments. She brings approximately a decade of experience providing research and advisory services and creating thought leadership content, with a focus on IT infrastructure and data management and protection. Her vantage point spans technology and vendor portfolio developments; customer buying behavior trends; and vendor ecosystems, go-to-market positioning, and business models. Her work has appeared in major publications including eWeek, TechTarget and The Register.

Prior to joining The Futurum Group, Krista led the data center practice for Evaluator Group and the data center practice of analyst firm Technology Business Research. She also created articles, product analyses, and blogs on all things storage and data protection and management for analyst firm Storage Switzerland and led market intelligence initiatives for media company TechTarget.

Krista holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Journalism with a minor in Business Administration from the University of New Hampshire.

Regarded as a luminary at the intersection of technology and business transformation, Steven Dickens is the Vice President and Practice Leader for Hybrid Cloud, Infrastructure, and Operations at The Futurum Group. With a distinguished track record as a Forbes contributor and a ranking among the Top 10 Analysts by ARInsights, Steven's unique vantage point enables him to chart the nexus between emergent technologies and disruptive innovation, offering unparalleled insights for global enterprises.

Steven's expertise spans a broad spectrum of technologies that drive modern enterprises. Notable among these are open source, hybrid cloud, mission-critical infrastructure, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and FinTech innovation. His work is foundational in aligning the strategic imperatives of C-suite executives with the practical needs of end users and technology practitioners, serving as a catalyst for optimizing the return on technology investments.

Over the years, Steven has been an integral part of industry behemoths including Broadcom, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and IBM. His exceptional ability to pioneer multi-hundred-million-dollar products and to lead global sales teams with revenues in the same echelon has consistently demonstrated his capability for high-impact leadership.

Steven serves as a thought leader in various technology consortiums. He was a founding board member and former Chairperson of the Open Mainframe Project, under the aegis of the Linux Foundation. His role as a Board Advisor continues to shape the advocacy for open source implementations of mainframe technologies.


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