IBM touts full data encryption in new Z series mainframes

IBM has introduced the 14th generation of its Z series mainframes, which still sell respectably despite repeated predictions of their demise. One of the major features being touted is the simple ability to encrypt all of the data on the mainframe in one shot. 

The mainframe, called IBM Z or z14, introduces a new encryption engine that for the first time will allow users to encrypt all of their data with one click—in databases, applications or cloud services—with virtually no impact on performance.

The new encryption engine is capable of running more than 12 billion encrypted transactions every day. The mainframe comes with four times more silicon for processing cryptographic algorithms over the previous generation mainframe along with encryption-oriented upgrades to the operating system, middleware and databases.  

The encryption technology also allows for much faster encryption of APIs and encryption keys than existing technologies—again so performance is not impacted.

The result is a seven times increase in encryption performance over the z13 mainframe and 18 times faster than x86 servers, which make up the bulk of the server market today, IBM claims. 

Big performance from this big iron

The big iron comes with some big performance beyond encryption. The z14 also can run the world’s largest MongoDB instance with 2.5 times faster Node.js performance than x86-based systems, and it can host up to two million Docker Containers or 1,000 concurrent NoSQL databases. Its memory footprint is 32TB, which is three times the size of the previous generation. 

Software upgrades released with the z14 are available to customers of the z13 mainframe, but they won’t be able to take full advantage of the new encryption features because they won’t have the crypto processors. 

IBM notes that encryption is often largely absent in corporate and cloud data centers because current solutions for x86-based servers can degrade performance and can be too complex and expensive to manage. As a result, the company notes only about 2 percent of corporate data is encrypted today, while more than 80 percent of mobile device data is encrypted. 

IBM believes its new mainframe will be particularly popular with businesses in the European Union, where new regulations regarding encryption and data protection are set to go into effect next year. The EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation will, among other things, hit a company subject to a data breach with significant fines unless they are able to demonstrate that the data were encrypted and the keys protected. GDPR regulations go into effect next year. 

Along with the mainframe announcement, IBM also announced the launch of IBM Cloud BlockChain data centers in six cities worldwide, all using z14 mainframes. These data centers will offer secure cloud services using the z14 cryptography technology.

The company expects to ship the new mainframe this quarter.

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