IBM's latest mainframe bets on end-to-end encryption

IBM Z mainframe heralds a new era of highly-encrypted data security

IBM's Z mainframe is set to be most significant system overhaul from IBM in more than 15 years and has been designed with involvement from more than 100 financial services and other industry mainframe clients and users. Now, in its pursuit of super-fast data transfer, the firm has revealed plans to accelerate the tech behind encrypted transactions.

A compression co-processor in each core has been improved to use fewer CPU cycles for compression/de-compression and DB2 will take advantage of that in the future.

The ability to run Java workloads 50% faster than x86 alternatives. "Encryption is the ideal defense because it brings the [security] back to the data itself".

The z13 was launched in 2015. IBM Z is also able to run more than 12 billion encrypted transactions a day, according to the company.

The Ponemon Institute's "2017 Cost of Data Breach Study" found that extensive use of encryption is a top factor in reducing the cost of a data breach, resulting in a $17 decrease in cost per lost or stolen record and an average cost of $141 per lost record.

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They include four times more silicon dedicated to cryptographic algorithms over the previous z13 mainframe. The mainframe offers "tamper responding" hardware that invalidates encryption keys as soon as a sign of intrusion is detected, and can then restore them safely. Application data, cloud data, and data stored in a traditional database can all be encrypted. Mainframes are still widely used in financial services.

"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. 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. "The vast majority of stolen or leaked data today is 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.

"It's a security breakthrough that now makes it possible to protect all the data, all the time", he said. The z14 encrypts data 18x faster than compared x86 platforms, at 5 per cent of the cost.

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

These pricing models are scalable within and across logical partitions (LPARs) and provide better metering, capping and billing.

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One of the encryption improvements provided by IBM Z is greater protection for encryption keys.

Sacconaghi said he has seen a decline in mainframe hardware revenues from a historic $3bn - $4bn a year to $2bn in fiscal 2016, attributable to fewer new workloads or volumes moving to the mainframe, and some potential migration of Linux workloads off the mainframe.

Computer hardware in general and large mainframe-style computers have taken a big hit in the dawning era of cloud computing. Consequently the z14's prime role is to support and continue this installed base revenue stream.

The mainframe, called IBM Z, seeks to address cyberattacks which have compromised financial data.

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