IBM beefs up System z mainframe

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IBM beefs up System z mainframe

Security, system health monitoring enhancements.

IBM claims to have sunk over US$1 billion into the research and development behind its new zEnterprise EC12 mainframe.

The firm said that the zEC12 provides 25 percent more performance per core and 50 percent more capacity than its predecessor, the zEnterprise 196.

The mainframe boasts a total capacity of 120 processor cores — with 101 available for customer use — and introduces a 5.5GHz six-core processor (compared to the 5.2GHz four-core processors found in the zEnterprise 196).

System z platform chief technology officer Jeff Frey told iTnews that the zEC12 incorporated a number of innovations beyond “traditional” improvements to performance, capacity and throughput efficiency.

These included the introduction of zAware, which analyses internal system messages to determine the mainframe's health and identify unusual system behaviour before it impacts operations.

"We’ve taken some high-value pattern matching and heuristic algorithms from IBM Research and burned that into the machine, so the machine can consume all kinds of instrumentation that deal with how the machine is behaving," Frey said.

"We think this is the next step in advanced resiliency of the platform and it’s something we’re very proud of with this release of the box.”

The zEC12 also came with security innovations including a "tamper-resistant cryptographic co-processor called Crypto Express4S that provides privacy for transactions and sensitive data", IBM said in a statement.

"It can be configured to provide support for high quality digital signatures used with applications for Smart passports, national ID cards and online legal proceedings, replacing handwritten signatures as directed by the EU and the public sector," the firm said.

Although the zEC12 came with beefed up capacity, it did so in "basically the same floor cutout" and same power and cooling envelopes as its predecessor, Frey said.

“We’ve also brought forward the advances from the last generation in terms of water-cooled options as well as the optional high-voltage DC power for better energy and power efficiency in the data centre," he said.

The zEC12 could also be deployed straight onto the slab, rather than requiring a raised floor environment.

Financial services is still the “bread and butter” of IBM’s mainframe business but Frey said the hardware has also found a home in manufacturing and public sector environments.

He and IBM Technology Group’s senior consulting IT executive John Crooks did not believe there was a general decline in the availability of mainframe skills, which might constrain platform growth.

They said IBM was working with schools and investing in mainframe literacy of students worldwide.

Frey saw future works devoted to enhancing acceleration and performance capacity of IBM's mainframe system, particularly those that underpinned customer cloud environments.

“IBM still sees the mainframe as absolutely critical to our clients’ businesses, critical to our company strategy and an area that we’ll continue to invest in,” Crooks said.

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