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Linux Distributions Create New Markets

IBMers Steven Roberson, Sara Cohen and Asim Khan explain how the Power Systems platform fits into the Linux ecosystem.

Photograph of Steven Roberson against a gray background

Steven Roberson is photographed outside the IBM campus in Austin, Texas., Image by Jason Griego

Cutting-edge workloads like AI, vision technologies, high-performance computing and memory intensive workloads reveal new business opportunities for clients running Linux* on POWER*. Linux distributions enable these new workloads and provide choices for clients.

IBM Power Systems* servers work with the premier Linux OS providers—Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Canonical Ubuntu. These distributions are tested on POWER, and clients can rest assured the OS will be supported by the distributions as well as the Linux community.

“IBM provides Linux content upstream into each distribution community, where clients can be assured that each OS distribution is optimized for Power* servers, regardless of which Linux OS they choose,” says Steven Roberson, IBM principal Linux offering manager. With each of these OSes, clients purchasing POWER servers can obtain the OS and support from IBM or get it directly from the distribution or partner. 

Linux workloads are evolving to bring users countless ways to handle business challenges. Solutions such as SAP HANA and SAS Viya are contributing to the bottom line by speeding data handling, expanding capabilities and providing access to new markets.

Ubuntu and Public Cloud

Cloud is an important focus for IBM and Linux distributions. Canonical’s Ubuntu is a leading Linux OS in the public cloud arena. Many users who are new to Linux deploy Ubuntu to get comfortable working with Linux. Ubuntu is also a leading choice for developers and research departments, including universities. 

Built for AI

AI is just one area where Power Systems servers running Linux surpass the competition thanks to the servers’ capability to move data at the fastest rates in the industry. “Every vertical industry including manufacturing, finance, security and retail realize their businesses can be enhanced with AI and that it can be done better with POWER,” says Roberson. “AI has existed since 1964, but it’s only now that we have the technology and understanding of how AI can enable industries to be more efficient.”

IBM continues to spearhead advances in AI. The AC922 server is the leading AI Training Engine and runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. “These offerings work in complete harmony, resulting in the fastest training times in the industry,” notes Roberson.

A variety of enterprises use AI vision technology to improve efficiency. For instance, AI helps manufacturers keep tabs on whether employees are wearing safety gear on the shop floor. This frees supervisors to focus on other tasks. Casinos are deploying AI vision to monitor money moving from the cashier cages to the gaming tables and ensure that the right amount of payoff is being made based on actual bets at the table. 

“IBM provides Linux content upstream into each distribution community, where clients can be assured that each OS distribution is optimized for Power servers, regardless of which Linux OS they choose.”
–Steven Roberson, IBM principal Linux offering manager


Turning to databases, POWER clients are more effectively using their data thanks to the availability of SAP HANA with SUSE and Red Hat Linux on IBM Power Systems. SAP HANA is one of the strongest in-memory database solutions in the market and has been running in POWER since 2015. “In just over four years, more than 2,500 POWER clients have incorporated SAP HANA into their enterprises,” says Asim Khan, program director, SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems. “The focus of the IBM Power Systems platform has always been to simplify and accelerate the deployment of SAP HANA environments.”

Working together, IBM and SAP have developed technological enhancements that are unmatched in the industry. The IBM Power Systems platform was the first system to support virtualization for SAP HANA production environments. Because of the flexibility of POWER, availability and scalability, clients have quickly adopted IBM Power Systems as the platform of choice for their SAP HANA environments. Clients are seeing further optimization and improved total cost of ownership (TCO) by using Shared Processor Pools for their SAP HANA environment. The availability of SAP HANA’s Virtual Persistent Memory solution enables clients to add a persistence layer to their existing DRAM memory, further maximizing SAP HANA uptime at no additional cost and without any compromise in performance.

SAP HANA helps clients modernize, innovate and transform their businesses. They receive real-time insights and make real-time decisions that help move their businesses forward. “The success IBM has achieved in running SAP HANA on POWER has been phenomenal,” Khan says. “It’s not only existing SAP clients who have migrated to SAP HANA and continued to run it on POWER. There are many clients migrating their SAP HANA environment from x86 to POWER, including a significant number of clients that have never used Power Systems before.” In addition, many cloud MSPs are choosing the IBM Power Systems platform to host SAP HANA environments as it provides the right flexibility and availability to meet service-level agreements and key performance indicators. 

“There are many clients migrating their SAP HANA environment from x86 to POWER, including a significant number of clients that have never used Power Systems before.”
–Asim Khan, program director, SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems

Using SAS Viya to Accelerate Analytics

The explosion of data is making analytics essential for businesses to gather information and make informed decisions. SAS Viya runs on POWER using Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Clients can choose from tools such as Visual Analytics, Visual Statistic, Visual Data Mining and Machine Learning to suit their needs. 

Like other SAS workloads, SAS Viya requires an overall system that supports high levels of I/O throughput and has substantial memory bandwidth. The POWER processor is designed to handle data-intensive workloads, enabling clients to meet their service-level agreements easily. It has the resiliency and reliability necessary to handle workloads, which are big pluses for clients. “Clients can run SAS Viya on a wide range of POWER deployments from bare metal all the way up to LPARs that use PowerVM,” says Sara D. Cohen, principal offering manager, SAS on IBM Power Systems. “That provides a lot of flexibility from a deployment standpoint.”

The capability to run SAS workloads in mixed environments is another differentiator for POWER. “SAS Viya and its software can be installed on partitions on an enterprise-class server and across one of more scale-out servers,” explains Beth L. Hoffman, IBM executive IT specialist. “Clients also appreciate being able to add GPU-enabled workloads as part of a mixed environment.” 

SAS Viya supports clients who are keen to run AI workloads. “Those workloads benefit from POWER as the server was designed from the chip up to run those workloads as fast and efficiently as possible,” Roberson adds.

“Clients can run SAS Viya on a wide range of POWER deployments from bare metal all the way up to LPARs that use PowerVM.”
–Sara D. Cohen, principal offering manager, SAS on IBM Power Systems

Supporting Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid cloud is becoming an integral part of enterprise IT. IBM leads in the hybrid cloud space thanks to its acquisition of Red Hat. “We have shifted our cloud strategy to fully support Red Hat OpenShift as the base of our offerings using Cloud Paks*,” says Roberson.

IBM will continue to support its strategic partners such as SUSE, which has a very loyal client base and is an industry leader. “We have a long-lasting, strong relationship with SUSE, which has become even stronger with IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat,” Roberson notes.

Many Linux experts, including Roberson, believe that IBM’s purchase of Red Hat will raise the awareness about Linux. “All boats will float higher now,” he says. Solutions based on Linux will gain the advantage regardless of where the Linux OS comes from as Linux continues to take market share from other OSes. “There is no doubt that Linux is a premier OS, and IBM has shown its support of the industry with the Red Hat ownership,” he explains.

Linux provides unlimited possibilities to evolve new workloads, expand into new areas and create new ways to generate revenue. POWER clients can confidently move into exciting new markets with the support of IBM and its Linux distribution partners.

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