IBM provides the Container Registry for the mainframe

IBM has provided a container registry that allows mainframe application developers to discover free, open source container images that can be accessed through a graphical or command line interface (CLI).

To address security concerns, IBM created these images from source instead of assembling them from images hosted on other container registries. IBM also scanned these images for known vulnerabilities, with reports available on a web page associated with each image.

IBM has also released a hash for each container image to prevent developers from accidentally getting an accidental version of a particular image.

The container images correspond to the Open Container Image (OCI) specification and as such can be executed on a Linux distribution that runs on a mainframe as well as on the z / OS operating system.

Matt Whitbourne, Director for z / OS, says containers play a vital role in enabling developers to build microservice-based applications that can be deployed on a mainframe, in addition to modernizing legacy applications so that they are easier to use an application can be called programming interface (API).

In general, IBM positions mainframe applications as a set of reliable back-end services that an application can invoke either on the platform or in a distributed computing environment. However, microservices-based applications, which tend to be latency sensitive, run much faster when deployed on a mainframe along with these backend services, notes Whitbourne.

After nearly six decades, there are still large numbers of IT companies in companies using mainframes to process transactions in near real-time alongside advanced analytics applications. Rather than replacing the back-end functionality these companies have already provided, IBM believes it makes more economic sense to make them more accessible to a wider range of developers.

At the same time, IBM is using containers to expand the pool of developers who are able to create and deploy mainframe applications. The immediate challenge is that most mainframe businesses tend to strictly manage their supply chains. The IBM-provided registry provides a centralized mechanism to ensure the integrity of container images for the mainframe.

It’s not entirely clear what impact containers can have on mainframes. Many companies use containers to move mainframe applications to cloud computing platforms. Whitbourne notes, however, that the mainframe is still the only platform that can guarantee an availability level of around three seconds of downtime per year.

In the longer term, IBM is making it clear that so-called cloud-native applications based on containers run better on z / OS and Linux than on public clouds, he adds.

The demise of the mainframe was long predicted, but as application architectures have evolved over the years, IBM has succeeded in ensuring that the mainframe remains relevant. In some ways, the mainframe is just one more distributed computing platform among many that IT organizations can deploy based on the attributes of the workload being deployed. In fact, it is likely that mainframes will continue to run various classes of workload well beyond the end of this decade and into the next decade.

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