IBM pitches bite-sized $135k LinuxONE box for smaller biz types

Fancy a mainframe that runs Linux? You'll need deep pockets

IBM has pushed out a new member of its LinuxONE enterprise-grade Linux lineup that it hopes will appeal to small and medium-sized businesses, but the price tag is unlikely to recommend it to many buyers in this market.

The LinuxONE systems are powered by the same Telum processor as IBM's z16 mainframe family, but are built to a smaller scale and run only Linux. Big Blue introduced a Rockhopper 4 line last year that adopted a standard rackmount chassis for easier integration with other infrastructure.

LinuxONE 4 Express continues this trend, but IBM claims to be extending the enterprise-grade capabilities of LinuxONE to small and medium-sized businesses with this, as well as to more datacenter environments.

With a price tag starting at $135,000, we have our doubts, and this is for the base hardware configuration, excluding any additional items, maintenance, the operating system, or other software.

That said, LinuxONE systems are designed to offer high availability, catering to customers with critical workloads that require strict resiliency, and IBM states that LinuxONE 4 Express systems are designed to deliver 99.999999 percent (eight nines) availability, which translates to less than a second of downtime per year.

And as the Telum processor contains on-chip acceleration for AI inferencing, IBM is naturally pushing its latest box for its AI capabilities, as well as hybrid cloud.

"IBM brings the power of hybrid cloud and AI in the latest LinuxONE 4 system to a simple, easy to use format that fits in many datacenters," Tina Tarquinio, VP of Product Management for IBM Z and LinuxONE, said in a statement.

As businesses grow, LinuxONE 4 Express will be able to scale to meet their growing workload and performance requirements, she added, in addition to offering AI inferencing colocated with mission-critical data for those growing AI use cases.

According to IBM's specifications, the LinuxONE 4 Express has a maximum 16 configurable cores and comprises just a single processor drawer with up to 1 TB of memory, compared with 2 for the Rockhopper systems and up to 4 for the multi-frame Emperor 4, which possibly makes it the smallest LinuxONE system you are likely to see.

Linux distributions supported by IBM include Canonical, Red Hat, and SUSE.

IBM also has a tame customer, in this case University College London, to extol the virtues of its latest system, which perhaps gives a hint of the real kind of environment where these boxes are likely to be deployed.

"We're excited for LinuxONE 4 Express to support high I/O workloads like Next Generation Sequencing for Biosciences as well as supporting work in Trusted Research Environments (TREs), for example AI workloads on medical data," said UCL Head of Research Computing Dr Owain Kenway.

"The system's high performance and scalability suit our crucial research needs, and its affordability will allow us to make it available to both university research and industry players as a test bed," he added.

Another selling point claimed by Big Blue is the ability to simplify IT environments and cut costs by consolidating databases onto a LinuxONE system. The company said that customers who move Linux workloads from an x86 server setup to an IBM LinuxONE 4 Express could save over 52 percent on total cost of ownership over five years.

The IBM LinuxONE 4 Express will be generally available from IBM and certified business partners from February 20. ®

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