IBM launches IBM Z, a revamped mainframe with pervasive data encryption

Geronimo Vena
Luglio 17, 2017

IBM says of the more than nine billion data records lost or stolen since 2013, only 4% were encrypted.

Encryption is largely absent in corporate data centers, and even in cloud data centers, because current solutions for data encryption in the x86 environment dramatically degrade performance and user experience and are too complex and expensive to manage for regulatory compliance, IBM said. It also includes new processor designs and upgrades to the operating system, middleware, and databases.

IBM has unveiled IBM Z, a mainframe capable of running more than 12 billion encrypted transactions per day.

Big Blue announced that its latest IBM Z mainframe computer will be able to encrypt all of the data in an enterprise all of the time, bringing encryption to everything from cloud services to databases. At the time we wrote it was grunty enough to do "real time encryption of all mobile transactions at any scale" up to a claimed 2.5 billion transactions a day.

According to IBM, the new system is capable of encrypting data 18 times faster than x86 platforms, at 5% of the cost.

IBM said that the mainframe system is set to be the global tech giant's most significant system overhaul in more than 15 years.

"The pervasive encryption that is built into - and is created to extend beyond - the new IBM Z really makes this the first system with an all-encompassing solution to the security threats and breaches we've been witnessing in the past 24 months", said Peter Rutten, analyst at IDC's Servers and Compute Platforms Group, in a statement.

"The vast majority of stolen or leaked data today is out in the open and easy to use because encryption has been very hard and expensive to do at scale", said Ross Mauri, general manager, IBM Z.

To make such pervasive encryption viable, the z14 has four times as much silicon devoted to cryptographic accelerators as its predecessor, the z13, giving it seven times the cryptographic performance. IBM's key management system hardware causes keys to self-destruct in response to intrusions, and they are then reconstituted after the intrusion, the company said.

To further beef up security, IBM has also encrypted APIs and encryption keys. Rather, it allows for all data associated with any app, cloud service or database to be encrypted at all times, in a streamlined process that doesn't require any software changes. In addition, the company said the IBM Secure Service Container protects against "Snowden-style" insider threats from contractors and privileged users.

This mainframe responds to API calls from cloud services and z14 developers can call any cloud service.

An analysis from Toni Sacconaghi Jr for Bernstein Research says IBM's hardware business is in secular decline, and, while mainframe hardware contributes just 3 per cent of Big Blue's revenues, the overall mainframe platform accounted for almost a quarter of total IBM revenues and an estimated 40 per cent of profits in 2016.

Mauri said the core of the system-software, hardware and firmware-is usually in development about 3 years.

The IBM Z, the next generation of IBM's industry-leading CMOS mainframe technology, features the industry's fastest microprocessor, running at 5.2GHz, and a new scalable system structure that delivers up to a 35 percent capacity increase for traditional workloads and up to a 35% capacity increase for Linux workloads compared to the previous generation IBM z13. "Container pricing is a more flexible approach that should result in system billing more accurately reflecting the amount of work the system is used to accomplish [a given task], thus making the z14 (and z13, since container pricing will also be available for those systems) more cost-effective", King said.

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