IBM Launches New zEnterprise EC12 Secure Cloud-Focused Mainframe System

IBM announced a new version of its zEnterprise mainframe system with enhanced security for cloud computing and enterprise data handling.

IBM has announced a new mainframe system, the zEnterprise EC12 mainframe server.

Big Blue calls its new mainframe the most powerful and technologically advanced version of an IBM system that has been the linchpin of enterprise computing for 48 years.

The new enterprise system, unveiled on Aug. 28, features technologies that demonstrate IBM's ongoing commitment to meet the growing need to secure and manage critical information with the System z mainframe, David Balog, IBM's general manager for System z, told eWEEK.

"The new system has 25 percent more performance and 50 percent more capacity than its predecessor," he said.

Mainframes support significant portions of the data environment at most large enterprises, IBM said. As these enterprises grapple with the well-documented growth of data, they are looking for new ways to secure and gain insights from such critical information as financial, customer and enterprise resource data that will enable them to provide their clients with new services. The new zEC12 offers enhanced security and robust support for operational analytics that can help clients efficiently sift through large volumes of raw data and transform it to gain knowledge that can be used for competitive advantage. For example, a retailer managing online transactions on zEC12 can gain insights from client information that will enable it to provide clients with a more customized shopping experience.

The IBM zEC12 enterprise system is the result of an investment by IBM Systems and Technology Group of more than $1 billion in IBM research and development primarily in Poughkeepsie, NY, as well as 17 other IBM labs around the world and in collaboration with some of IBM's top clients, Balog said.

The new IBM mainframe is one of the most secure enterprise systems ever, with built-in security features designed to meet the security and compliance requirements of different industries, he said. With operational analytics and near real-time workload monitoring and analysis, clients can use the new zEC12 for a variety of workloads leveraging the world's fastest chip running at 5.5 GHz, IBM said.

Security is paramount in the new system. IBM System z is a leading platform for secure data serving and has achieved Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level 5+ security classification, enabling enterprises to run many different applications containing confidential data on a single mainframe. The new zEC12 builds on this.

zEC12 includes a tamper-resistant cryptographic co-processor called Crypto Express4S that provides privacy for transactions and sensitive data. Crypto Express4S includes new hardware and software developed with IBM Research to help meet the security requirements of different industries and geographies. For example, 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, IBM said.

IBM said SC Data Center provides services to Colony Brands Inc., one of the world's largest and most successful catalog companies, and uses encryption technology on zEnterprise to protect its call center applications when it services customers and takes orders, protecting its e-commerce platform that relies on System z for all sales and credit transactions and moves sensitive data safely to other platforms for processing.

Meanwhile, zEC12 advances performance for analytics, increasing performance of analytic workloads by 30 percent compared to its IBM predecessor, Balog said. In addition, support for the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator that incorporates the Netezza data warehouse appliance into zEC12 enables clients to run complex business analytics and operational analytics on the same platform.

Balog added that the new mainframe also offers IT systems analytics capabilities based on technology from IBM Research. It analyzes internal system messages to provide a near real-time view of the system's health, including any potential problems. Called IBM zAware, the technology learns from the messages to recognize patterns and quickly pinpoint any deviations, using the information to identify unusual system behavior and minimize its impact. IBM STG Lab Services will offer services to help with planning, configuration and implementation of IBM zAware.

"This is where transaction processing is going – there are more and more analytics going into the system," Balog said.

In addition, users can consolidate thousands of distributed systems on to Linux on zEC12, lowering IT operating expenses associated with energy use, floor space and software licensing. zEC12 can offer a low total cost of acquisition for Linux consolidation of database workloads. One zEC12 can encompass the capacity of an entire multi-platform data center in a single system.

And another key innovation for the system is that zEC12 is the first IBM mainframe to include internal solid state technology with Flash Express, a new memory technology that can help improve the performance of data intensive applications or workloads where optimal service levels are vital such as customer facing or service applications used by banks, public sector companies and retailers, Balog said. It is designed to provide improved availability during bursts of system activity experienced at transitional periods such as when financial markets open or holiday periods when online retail transactions are heavy.

Moreover, enterprises can also opt to run zEC12 without a raised datacenter floor -- a first for high-end IBM mainframes. With new overhead power and cabling support, clients have more flexibility on where zEC12 is deployed. This can increase the appeal of System z for enterprise clients in growth markets, where System z revenue was up 11 percent year to year in the second quarter of 2012, according to IBM earnings reports.

Also, zEC12 is the first general purpose IBM server to incorporate transactional memory technology, first used commercially to help make the IBM Blue Gene/Q-based "Sequoia" system at Lawrence Livermore National Lab the fastest supercomputer in the world. In zEC12, IBM adapted this technology to enable software to better support concurrent operations that use a shared set of data such as financial institutions processing transactions against the same set of accounts.

"We continue to drive innovation on System z, allowing a broader set of clients to apply its leadership capabilities in security and resiliency to the current demands of their business, be they from analytics, cloud or mobile computing," Balog said in a statement. "Our end-to-end design approach for smarter computing -- from processors to systems to software optimization -- is targeted to handle complicated business challenges associated with managing, protecting and analyzing a client's most critical information. It's what makes the mainframe the ultimate enterprise system."

Balog noted that in 2010, IBM introduced hybrid computing with the launch of the IBM zEnterprise System and the IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX) to allow enterprises to deploy and integrate workloads across mainframe, Power7 and System x servers. Using zEnterprise Unified Resource Management, these diverse resources can be managed as a single, virtualized system.

Now IBM has introduced the zBX Model 003 to help extend customer's ability to run integrated and dynamic workloads. With simplified operational control and an integrated, high-performance, private and secure network, the zBX Model 003 is designed to run with zEC12. Like its predecessor, the latest zBX includes specialty processors for specific workloads such as the IBM WebSphere DataPower Integration Appliance XI50 for zEnterprise and select IBM BladeCenter servers.

As of second quarter 2012, IBM had shipped over 140 zBX units with more than 1,000 blade servers to clients, enabling them to take advantage of the management and reduced complexity of hybrid computing on the platform.

Meanwhile, IBM also announced it is growing its portfolio of System z industry-focused solutions that package software from IBM or ISV partners and services or assets from IBM Global Business Services. These include the IBM Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter Cities, IBM Health Plan Integration Hub, two IBM Smarter Analytics: Anti-Fraud, Waste and Abuse Solutions – one for healthcare, one for insurance -- and the IBM Genelco Insurance Administration Solution. Offering these solutions on System z can allow clients to benefit from the mainframe's oft-touted advantages of high-availability, resiliency and security.

IBM also announced new services and financing for its mainframe customers. To help clients build private clouds more rapidly, IBM today announced new implementation services for Linux-based clouds on the mainframe. The new services deliver IBM processes, tools, skills and best practices that enable a fast and accurate implementation.

To help current mainframe clients looking to upgrade to zEC12, IBM also offers newly enhanced setup and migration services to drive more long term economic value from their system investments. And IBM Global Financing (IGF) can help customers evolve and grow their zEnterprise investments with financing that promotes greater flexibility, lower total cost of ownership and predictability of payments, Big Blue officials said.