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Linux on z Systems Enables the API Economy and Microservices While Enhancing Hybrid Cloud Solutions

Linux on z Systems
Illustration by James Dawe/ycn.org
 

Businesses are looking for technology that helps them stay relevant, flexible and secure in the digital economy. As a result, companies are turning to Linux* on z Systems* to take advantage of the platform’s open-source technology that provides flexibility to meet today’s challenges.

Recent acquisitions and innovations from IBM support open source and provide opportunities to leverage APIs and microservices as well as enable enterprises to effectively use hybrid cloud environments.

With foundational investments in Linux and Eclipse, IBM has supported open source and open standards for nearly two decades, notes Marcel Mitran, Distinguished Engineer and CTO of IBM LinuxONE*. IBM is also a founding member and strong supporter of several key open-source initiatives, including OpenStack, Cloud Foundry, Node Foundation and Apache Spark.

“The Linux on z Systems platform continues … allowing IBM z* users to leverage open innovation while benefiting from the underlying platform’s advantages in security, resilience, response time and scale.”
—Marcel Mitran, Distinguished Engineer and CTO of LinuxONE

“The Linux on z Systems platform continues to be a presence in these and many more open projects, allowing IBM z* users to leverage open innovation while benefiting from the underlying platform’s advantages in security, resilience, response time and scale,” Mitran says. “There’s a unique elegance to having the platform address these concerns.”

Other platforms require heroic effort in the application and operation layers to enable security, scale and resilience, sapping energy and organizational focus from the business’s core competencies and interests. But with Linux on z Systems, those advantages are built in, he notes.

Many enterprises use hybrid clouds to improve ROI. However, the ROI advantage can be lost if the hybrid cloud isn’t secure. Seventy percent of enterprises investing in hybrid clouds are faced with increased security concerns.

With strong cryptography performance and an extended suite of capabilities, z Systems provides security at scale for hybrid clouds. IBM has built a rich ecosystem on z Systems with products like QRadar*, which manages and alerts clients to security threats, and IBM Security zSecure*. IBM Security Guardium* leverages analytics for data integrity monitoring. IBM has partnered with BlackRidge Technology, Forcepoint Trusted Thin Client and RSM Partners to broaden the z Systems security portfolio.

Co-Location Benefits

Linux on z Systems hybrid cloud offers other advantages, such as co-locating with the system of record, which allows for smoother and faster performance. Application response times are up to 3x faster when the insights and engagement layers are co-located with the data.
 

Transactions bound by fixed service-level agreements benefit immensely from co-location. When the systems processing the transaction don’t wait for the data to move between discrete machines, more time exists for analytics to capture and develop insights that can provide more powerful engagement and an improved experience for the end user, Mitran notes.

In terms of security, co-location reduces points of failure and attack vectors, which can result in better availability and security at a lower cost.

The February study by Solitaire Interglobal—“Cyber crime: Keeping data safe from security incursions” (ibm.co/1qkn1iW)—shows that z Systems requires 70 percent fewer tasks than x86 or UNIX* to implement standard protection levels, Mitran says. Therefore, securing assets on z Systems is 84 percent cheaper than on x86 or UNIX platforms, according to the study.

Co-location provides data center savings, too. Co-location and the resulting consolidation within the data center can yield a reduction in power usage and shrink the data center’s footprint.

How Ubuntu Adds Value

IBM’s partnerships with open-source providers enable clients to fully explore the hybrid cloud and its business advantages. For instance, customers using Linux on z Systems for hybrid cloud applications may benefit from running Ubuntu—Canonical’s open-source platform.

As a cloud-enabled distributor, Ubuntu’s footprint claims 70 percent of OpenStack-enabled systems, 70 percent of public cloud images and 70 percent of Docker Hub images, Mitran says. It also has become the de facto standard distribution used by computer science and engineering graduates, he notes.

With capabilities like Juju, Metal as a Service, Landscape and LXD, Ubuntu brings a rich set of innovative and popular cloud enablement and application development tools to Linux on z Systems. “When coupled with the scale, availability and security that have made z Systems the platform of choice for some of the most demanding mission-critical systems in the world, the outcome is a very powerful value proposition,” Mitran says.

Further, thanks to a common set of capabilities for both edge computing and back-end systems, Ubuntu’s support of the Internet of Things (IoT) and public cloud environments provides a seamless end-to-end experience for hybrid cloud solutions.
 

IBM and the API Economy

As well as partnering with companies like Canonical, IBM is acquiring businesses that offer synergies with existing IBM products and expand services for customers, such as APIs and microservices.

In September 2015, IBM acquired StrongLoop*, the leading provider of enterprise Node.js, an open-source technology that helps enterprises create, run, manage and secure APIs, explains Juan Carlos Soto, vice president of Hybrid Cloud Integration and API Economy, IBM, and former StrongLoop CEO.

Node.js is the most popular open-source framework available today. Its ecosystem has over 250,000 modules available for developers to use to create new, highly scalable applications, Soto says. Typically used for applications that must excel at handling many external connections simultaneously, Node.js is ideally suited for an enterprise’s API tier. Many technology innovators take advantage of its unique technical advantages, rapid development capabilities and vibrant community.

With the acquisition of StrongLoop, IBM is expanding the category of API management solutions to not just secure and manage APIs but also to create and run APIs to deliver an unparalleled, integrated user experience supporting the full API lifecycle.

Node.js is expanding opportunities for Linux on z Systems developers on the innovative edge of open-source technology. Developers are seeing the advantages of running APIs close to the data source itself, Soto says. Node.js runs 2x better on Linux on z Systems than on competitive platforms. Further, when Node.js is co-located with data and transactions native on z Systems, the system sees a 60 percent reduction in response times and 2.5x improvement in throughput.

“These statistics point to the power of running Node.js and implementing performance-critical APIs right on Linux on z Systems,” Soto notes.

API Connectivity

To bring IBM and Node.js synergies together, in March, IBM released IBM API Connect*, which integrates IBM’s API management and gateway offerings along with API creation and runtime capabilities using StrongLoop’s Node.js and IBM’s Java* technologies.

“This enables companies of all sizes to create, run, manage and secure APIs that access information on existing IT systems, including the mainframe or anywhere in the back office as well as services and data in the cloud,” Soto says. “It also enables high developer productivity using Node.js to create new APIs.”
 

With its built-in, integrated support for both Java and JavaScript* (the programming language used by Node.js) for API development and execution, IBM API Connect is the only API solution on the market that covers the two most popular programming languages in a single offering, Soto notes.

APIs allow applications to interact with each other and serve data and services to mobile, rich Internet applications and IoT devices. APIs allow component services to be moved elsewhere in the cloud without breaking the overall solution, Soto says. As long as the solution uses APIs to integrate the component services, their interfaces remain consistent even as their implementation or execution locations change.

APIs also enable businesses to tap new revenue streams. Enterprises can leverage their existing IT investments and the services those investments create to drive revenue growth and expand into new business areas. For example, a bank can offer APIs to Web and mobile businesses, allowing them to use its banking APIs for transactions. “You are getting the advantage of driving new usage and creating new business opportunities from services you’ve built over the years,” Soto says.

Companies offering APIs for external access can make them freely accessible to drive as much penetration and adoption as possible, or control access to the APIs to bill for their usage or for security reasons.

“A powerful API manage- ment platform, such as IBM API Connect, not only allows you to create and run APIs but also manage those APIs by defining access policies from the start,” Soto notes. “Then, with solutions from IBM, such as IBM DataPower* Gateway, you can seamlessly enforce those data policies directly in the gateway without requiring additional programming.”

The Rise of Microservices

Individual APIs can also be used to create a new API tier to handle the evolving demands from mobile, rich Web and IoT. Many enterprises are creating such an API tier on the edge of their enterprise network. Rather than directly accessing data and services spread among systems of record and in the cloud, an API tier enables enterprises to combine and optimize service and data access, increasing overall performance, controlling access to back-end systems and improving overall reliability.

The API tier is increasingly implemented as a collection of microservices—each with a modular, highly specific function—exposed as managed APIs to systems of engagement. From there, developers can quickly aggregate and optimize APIs to deliver the critical services powering innovative applications accessed by customers,employees or partners.

“APIs enable companies to get into new business areas, protect their existing ones, and deliver a better experience to their customers, their partners and their employees,” Soto says.

Providing Services

Linux on z Systems supports, enables and advances hybrid cloud, the API economy and microservices as well as the business benefits these services provide. This allows your business to stay competitive and thrive in this ever-changing environment.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at savage.shirley@comcast.net.



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