IBM's rethinking what a mainframe should be in the age of cloud computing. Here's why it matters for the enterprise.
While purely public cloud adoption is a viable strategy for some businesses, the fact remains that data silos in the interest of centralization—for high volume, central point-of-authority operations—persist in enterprise workloads. These workloads complicate multicloud deployments for a number of businesses, as information security and regulatory compliance hurdles typically increases linearly as additional servers are added.
IBM is pitching the newly-announced z15 mainframe as part of their multicloud sprint, with a fair bit of representation from Red Hat, and a nod to OpenStack and Kubernetes. It's a "something for everybody" play, for all definitions of "everybody" that include only enterprise computing with a reliance on on-premise systems. In short, it just adds the flexibility and modern data and application management features that won't send programmers in your organization running to the job boards.
1. Per-user data access rights and tracking for compliance
IBM is touting what they see as the solution to the problem in "Data Privacy Passports," a feature new to the IBM z15 system announced Thursday. Data Privacy Passports are intended to protect data inside and outside the z15 environment by providing provisioning capabilities to define per-user access rights on cloud platforms and on-premises systems "at the data level."
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This is enabled through the use of "Trusted Data Objects," which are intended to move with business data, providing encryption key management for data that moves across enterprise networks. IBM claims that it "can also be used to prevent collusion between data owners leading to the misuse of data," as well as track data from the point of origin to the point of consumption, with centralized records for auditing and compliance.
2. Enterprises still want on-premises storage, for data in use
Cloud data archival is useful for system backups and data at rest. By merit of being in the cloud, it fulfills risk management requirements of constituting an offsite backup. On-premises storage has a flashy future, as decreased IOPS per GB for increasingly dense traditional hard drives will necessitate the adoption of flash caching and all-flash arrays.
IBM also announced the DS8900F all-flash solutions for use with IBM Z and LinuxONE systems, which they tout as providing "storage latencies of 19 microseconds, twice the throughput, and IOPS increased up to 60 percent" compared to the DS8880 series, first introduced in 2004. It also interoperates with multicloud deployments on IBM Z environments "with no impact to IO performance and without the need of additional servers or gateways," according to a press release.
3. Mainframes are still the backbone of the financial industry
IBM is quick to remind the importance of Z systems in finance, with 87% of all credit card transactions processed on IBM Z systems, as is 29 billion ATM transactions per year, totalling nearly $5 billion daily.
Though you might think of finance firms as not being the land of early adopters, telecoms are still safely trailing the pack in terms of modernization. IBM claims that three-fifths of Fortune 100 companies use IBM Z.
4. Mainframe does not mean monolith
Red Hat's influence is already being felt, with IBM previously announcing plans to bring OpenShift to IBM Z and LinuxONE systems, allowing for cloud-native apps on z15. "This offering will accelerate the transformation to greater portability and agility through integrated tooling and a feature-rich ecosystem for cloud-native development on Linux on IBM Z and LinuxONE offerings," IBM's press release states, adding that no z/OS specific skills are required for deploying apps on OpenShift.
The other problem of computing monoliths is single point-of-failure, for which IBM offers "Instant Recovery" to mitigate planned and unplanned downtime. Likewise, the HyperSwap capabilities on the DS8900F allow "no-data-loss capabilities within metro distances," while IBM offers geographically dispersed recovery options for deployments more than 1,000 miles apart.
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