Quick Look Inside IBM’s Snazzy New Mainframe

What did IBM do to celebrate the mainframe’s 51st birthday? Reinvented the Big Iron basically.

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Happy 51st

What did IBM do to celebrate the mainframe’s 51st birthday? Reinvented the Big Iron basically. The z13 models announced this week are the result of a $1 billion, five-year development cycle that resulted in the most powerful, feature-laden mainframe to date. Here we take a quick look at some of the more interesting features of the new system.

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Credit: REUTERS/Phil Noble
Legendary scalability

The z13 promises to build upon the mainframe’s legendary scalability: the big z13 is capable of running up to 8,000 virtual servers -- more than 50 virtual servers per core and z13 is able to process 2.5 billion transactions a day - equivalent of 100 Cyber Mondays every day of the year, IBM says.

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Real-time encryption

IBM says the z13 will make practical real-time encryption of all mobile transactions. The z13 speeds real-time encryption of mobile transactions to help protect the transaction data and ensure response times. The system includes 500 new patents including cryptographic encryption technologies that enable more security features for mobile initiated transactions. Support to allow a cryptographic coprocessor to be shared across more than 16 domains, up to the maximum number of logical partitions on the system.

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Credit: IBM
Embedded analytics

The z13 is the first mainframe system with embedded analytics providing real-time insights on all transactions. This capability can help guarantee the ability of the client to run real-time fraud detection on 100% of their business transactions, IBM says.

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Credit: IBM
Cascade of events

On the mobile front, each transaction triggers a cascade of events across computing systems. These events include comparisons to past purchases, data encryption and decryption, bank-to-bank reconciliations, and customer loyalty discounts. This cascade of events causes what IBM calls a “starburst effect” – where a single transaction can trigger as few as four or as many as 100 additional system interactions. IBM says the z13 in such situations can protect and watch over these threat points.

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BM’s zAware program has been improved. The system uses near real-time continuous learning algorithms, providing a diagnostics capability intended to help customers quickly pinpoint problems. IBM zAware uses analytics to intelligently examine z/OS or Linux on z Systems messages to find unusual patterns, inconsistencies, and variations. Large operating system environments can sometimes generate more than 25 million messages per day. This can make manual analysis time-consuming and error-prone when exceptional problems occur. IBM zAware provides a simple graphical user interface and APIs to help customers find message anomalies quickly, IBM says.

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Credit: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
Fiber channel connectivity

IBM significantly bolstered the Fiber channel connectivity for storage area networks. IBM said the z13 will support a new release of IBM’s Fiber Connection or FICON. FICON Express16S features a link data rate of 16Gbps and auto-negotiation to 4G or 8Gbps for interaction with existing switches, directors, and storage devices.

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Credit: IBM

The z13 supports 10TBytes of main memory, up from 3TB on the previous generation. The z13 is based on an eight-core processor made in the same 22 nm process as IBM’s Power 8 processors. A fully configured system sports up to 141 of these cores, all running at 5 GHz. The z13 supports 10 TBytes main memory, up from 3 TB in the previous generation.