Mainframes Are So Important, Even Docker Is Officially Supporting Them

Mainframes Are So Important, Even Docker Is Officially Supporting Them

Need a reminder that mainframes still matter? Take a look at some of the most recent news from Docker, the pathbreaking container platform that has now added official enterprise support for mainframes.

Docker is an open platform for running applications inside containers. Containers are like virtual machines in that they package applications into a portable, isolated environment. But they offer distinct advantages over virtual machines, including better performance and more environment consistency.

The platform, which debuted in 2013, has become massively popular as a next-generation solution for deploying applications on commodity servers.

Bringing Docker (Officially) to the Mainframe

But as we’ve written before, Docker isn’t only for commodity servers. Docker containers can also run on any mainframe that supports Linux – which is to say, virtually all mainframes in use today.

Technically speaking, it has always been possible to download and run it on Linux-based mainframe environments. But last month, Docker made things official by announcing that it is adding mainframes to the list of environments that the company will officially support through its commercial Docker Enterprise Edition product.

In other words, if you want to use Docker containers on your mainframe, you no longer must take a DIY approach. You can instead run the enterprise edition and enjoy official support.

Download our free eBook: Connecting Big Iron to Big Data

Why Use Docker on Mainframes?

You may be wondering why Docker would be interested in supporting mainframes. It is one of the newest, hottest software platforms today. Mainframes are perhaps the oldest type of computing technology that is still in use.

If you think about the hassles that traditionally come with deploying legacy mainframe apps, however, it’s clear how Docker containers can help mainframe users. One of the chief selling points of the platform is that it allows you to “build, ship and run any app, anywhere,” as the company’s current slogan puts it.

This is because, when your app runs inside a Docker container, the type of host server and operating system don’t have much bearing on the app’s ability to work. Docker abstracts away the host environment variables so that your app can run on any environment – an x86 commodity server, a mainframe or the cloud – where it is installed.

What this means for mainframes is that you can use the platform to integrate them more seamlessly into your infrastructure. If your company’s infrastructure is built using a mix of x86 servers, cloud environments, and a mainframe, Docker containers allow you to stop worrying about which apps are supported where. Once you containerize your apps, you can run them anywhere.

The only big caveat to keep in mind is that Docker can work its containerization magic only on systems that support Linux (and certain versions of Windows, but that is a story for a different post). It can’t run directly on z/OS.

Mainframes Still Matter

Docker’s decision to support mainframes officially not only offers new opportunities for integrating infrastructure, but also serves as a reminder that the mainframe is not dead, despite occasional reports to the contrary. (See also: 6 Industries Where Mainframes are Still King)

Mainframes are very much alive – so alive that one of today’s hippest startups has made supporting them a priority.

By the way, the list of platforms that Docker has chosen to support is limited. It doesn’t work on macOS. It doesn’t support Android. It doesn’t run on most versions of Windows or most Unix-like systems other than Linux.

Yet it does work on mainframes. That places mainframes in a privileged position. When even four-year-old startups are singling out mainframes, you know mainframes are alive and well.

Like Docker containers, Syncsort’s mainframe solutions can help you integrate mainframe apps and data seamlessly into the rest of your infrastructure, saving time and money. Syncsort takes the hassle out of moving data between mainframes and modern analytics tools so that you can focus on using your data, not fighting it.

Explore the mainframe’s massive potential in today’s a Big Data World, read Syncsort’s eBook: Connecting Big Iron to Big Data

Christopher Tozzi

Authored by Christopher Tozzi

Christopher Tozzi has written about emerging technologies for a decade. His latest book, For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution, is forthcoming with MIT Press in July 2017.

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