IBM unveils powerful new encryption mainframe


The Z mainframe also has the ability to destroy encryption keys if tampering or interference is detected - encrypting the programming interfaces which link the apps and services.

The next-generation mainframe, called the IBM Z, is capable of handling 12 billion encrypted transactions a day, meaning businesses can encrypt all the data associated with an application, cloud service or database.

An analysis from Toni Sacconaghi Jr for Bernstein Research says IBM's hardware business is in secular decline, and, while mainframe hardware contributes just 3 per cent of Big Blue's revenues, the overall mainframe platform accounted for almost a quarter of total IBM revenues and an estimated 40 per cent of profits in 2016.

The system encrypts data at rest or in flight wherever it is located, and can be encrypted in bulk rather than in small chunks as is usual today.

Peter Rutten, an analyst with IDC says all-encompassing encryption is clearly the key to this release. Everything was not encrypted because it was a manual process. And only 4% of those records were encrypted, which means that a majority of the captured data was still valuable to attackers. "With this technology, the whole system in its entirety is".

The IBM Z's encryption system is created to address data breaches that are driving the global cyber crime industry and help organisations comply with new data protection regulations.

The mainframe's new cryptographic capability now extends across any data, networks, or applications - such as the IBM Cloud Blockchain service - without any application changes or impact on performance, the company said.

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Along with the mainframe announcement, IBM also announced the launch of IBM Cloud BlockChain data centers in six cities worldwide, all using z14 mainframes. The company on Monday unveiled IBM Z, a next generation mainframe that is is billing as the world's most powerful transaction system. IBM Z is also able to run more than 12 billion encrypted transactions a day, according to the company.

"For quite a long time, people have looked at Intel as a convenient platform, but IBM would love to break that stranglehold and have people take a look at the mainframe", Hurwitz said.

IBM is looking to tackle the problem of what hackers can do with the information they acquire from data breaches by encrypting everything stored on its new mainframes.

They include four times more silicon dedicated to cryptographic algorithms over the previous z13 mainframe.

The z14 CPU has new instructions in the single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) facility that speeds traditional decimal operation workloads (i.e. COBOL 6.2, PL/I 5.2) and analytics (ie, Apache Spark for z/OS) beyond that provided by the faster processor. The result is a sevenfold increase in cryptographic performance over the z13 mainframe, he said. There will certainly be an upgrade cycle, but what's unclear is whether IBM can expand the reach of the IBM Z with its approach to encryption. "If someone were to get access to the keys, they can't do anything with them", Perera said. "No, I don't think a company would buy a mainframe just for the encryption".

At the moment only about 2 percent of business data is encrypted, IBM estimates, in part because doing so can be expensive and can cause significant performance decreases.