Google Close to Launching IBM i Cloud Service, Will Says
June 4, 2018 Alex Woodie
One of the laments of Power chip types everywhere is the lack of a public cloud service for Power applications. While Linux and Windows folks can run their X86 workloads on multiple public clouds, the opportunities for hosting IBM i, AIX, or Power Linux workloads are limited to so-called private clouds. But according to IBM i chief architect Steve Will, that could soon be changing.
While neither IBM nor Google have made any official announcements about Google running IBM i in its public cloud, Will talked openly about the relationship between the two tech giants at COMMON‘s PowerUp conference in San Antonio, Texas, two weeks ago. During the Future of IBM i panel on Sunday, May 20, Will stated that Google “was on the doorstep” of offering an IBM i service, and that we should be keeping an eye on the news for that announcement.
This wouldn’t be surprising, but it would be news. Ever since IBM and Google started working together through the OpenPower Foundation and Google started using Power8 processors in its public cloud offering way back in 2014, there has been speculation that Google could, if it wanted to, run the IBM i operating system and IBM i workloads. (Business concerns, rather than technical capability, tend to be the limiting factors in these types of arrangements.)
That speculation of a Google-IBM i connection continued this spring, when the Web giant announced that it was not only building its own systems with Power9 chips, but that it was adopting new Power9-based Power Linux servers from IBM to replace some of the X86 servers powering its ubiquitous search engine.
Will said getting Google to go from using Power Systems servers to run search engine workloads to using Power Systems servers to run real production business workloads on the Google Cloud Platform would be just one more step in the ongoing relationship.
“They have not yet made any announcement about being able to run AIX or IBM i in their Google Cloud,” Will said during the panel. “But as a cloud business, they’re looking to get mid-size and big businesses to turn over some of their computing. In order to do that, they’re going to have to do that with i, AIX, and z. What you should be looking for in the news is when does that start to happen.”
Big companies have been known to use the prospect of hosting big iron workloads as a carrot to get concessions from private cloud providers for their X86 workloads. Numerous managed service providers (MSPs) have told IT Jungle as much over the years, and it’s something that Will repeated at the PowerUp show, too.
However, it’s a business practice that no public cloud provider can emulate for the simple fact that no public cloud provider currently supports big iron workloads. IBM doesn’t even support IBM i workloads with its SoftLayer cloud, which it recently renamed IBM Cloud Private, although it can store IBM i backup data there as BLOBs in an object store; IBM i backups can also be stored on Amazon Web Services S3 object system, too.
But storing IBM i data or backup files is different than actually running IBM i workloads. According to Will, these limitations on running IBM i workloads on public cloud platforms are about to change.
“I have meetings on my calendar with other public cloud providers [besides Google] who want to be able to sell cloud into business,” Will said. Bringing cloud to business “is fine if you’re creating games to run on these phones. You can do that on a bunch of little Windows, or more likely Linux, servers. If you want to run business, you’ve got to run mainframe and you’ve got to run i. That’s just the way it is. Ultimately three years from now, I don’t know if Amazon will have, though I suspect they will, an i offering. But we know that Google is on the doorstep.”
During a briefing with IT Jungle the following day, Will was asked whether Microsoft Azure, the third major public cloud, would be another place where IBM i could run eventually. While he didn’t offer any specifics, he indicated that conversations have taken place.
“Just because we haven’t run everyone yet doesn’t mean we’re not going to,” Will said during the panel discussion. “We partnered with Google because Google wanted to partner with us and Amazon didn’t want to partner with us. So hey Google is going to succeed with Power. Now I have Amazon calling, asking us. What happens more often than not,” Will continued, “is that the cloud provider will go to a customer and the customer will say ‘Well you can have my PC stuff in the cloud if you take my i with you.’ So now the cloud providers are coming to me and saying ‘Well, how do I get your i in the cloud?’ Well, thank you very much.”