In an effort to encourage more developers to join the open-source community, International Business Machines (IBM) has launched two new Linux-only mainframe servers designed for both the high and low ends of the market.

Based on IBM's z13 mainframe system, which is designed for high-volume transactions, the new LinuxOne Emperor is touted as the most advanced Linux-only system in the world. IBM says the system can scale up 8,000 virtual machines, which translates to thousands of containers, the biggest number for any single Linux computer to date.

Meanwhile, the LinuxOne Rockhopper is a smaller mainframe designed for entry-level buyers. Enterprises that purchase this system will still be able to benefit from the speed as well as advanced encryption and other security features available in the LinuxOne Emperor, although it is primarily geared at mid-sized businesses.

The announcement seems to be part of IBM's strategy to encourage more developers to work on enterprise cloud, analytics and security platforms by offering a Linux-based mainframe system that works with a host of open-source software, including Apache Spark, Maria, Posture and Chef.

Ross Mauri, general manager for IBM Systems, tells TechCrunch that the mainframes will be placed inside the client's own data center, but clients will only be billed based on how much they use the system, a flexible billing system that IBM hopes will attract more customers instead of pushing them away with the expensive upfront costs of buying a mainframe system.

IBM sells around 10 to 20 mainframe customers each quarter, says Mauri, and the company saw a dip in sales numbers for the 13th consecutive financial quarter across all of its major businesses. As part of its strategy, IBM has partnered with U.K.-based Canonical, which develops Ubuntu, to distribute its Linux-based operating system on the new LinuxONE servers as well as its Z systems.

"For me, what is most exciting is that IBM is working through a paradigm shift and looking at Z systems and the mainframe, expanding them and deepening open-source software enablement," says John Zannos, vice president of cloud channels and alliances at Canonical.

Alongside the launch of the new mainframes, IBM is also contributing 250,000 lines of code to the Open Mainframe Project announced by The Linux Foundation. The goal is to work with other companies with a commitment to open-source to provide tools and technologies for open-source mainframe systems and other open-source projects.  

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