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IBM Targets Clouds, Analytics with Its Latest System z Mainframe

By Pedro Hernandez (Send Email)
Posted August 28, 2012


IBM today took the wraps off the zEnterprise EC12 mainframe, a system that packs over 100 configurable cores and provides a 50 percent boost in capacity over its predecessor, the zEnterprise 196.

According to IBM, the company has poured $1 billion in research and development funds into making the zEC12 the fastest, most secure and cloud-enabled mainframe to roll out its doors. The zEC12 delivers 25 percent more performance per core, a feat attributed to processor technology that runs at 5.5 GHz.

Since mainframes end up crunching data in high security and heavily regulated environments, IBM is quick to point out the system's Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level 5+ security certification. The zEC12 also includes Crypto Express4S, a tamper-resistant cryptographic co-processor.

IBM is counting on the zEC12's Linux-friendly, primed-for-virtualization underpinnings to act as a gateway to hybrid cloud computing. The mainframe allows for massive consolidation of up to "thousands" of Linux-based systems onto one zEC12. "One zEC12 can encompass the capacity of an entire multi-platform data center in a single system," claims IBM.

IBM's newest mainframe tackles another growing market in IT as well: data analytics.

TOP500 Supercomputer The latest System z hardware supports the company's DB2 Analytics Accelerator, which incorporates the Netezza data warehouse appliance. From a raw performance perspective, the system provides a 30 percent overall boost to analytics workloads.

On the systems management front, zAware technology analyzes system health and resource consumption to provide an early warning system of sorts. Formerly an IBM Research project, zAware detects patterns from system information streams to identify unusual behavior, minimize its impact and avert downtime causing outages, according to the company.

IBM has also taken a page from the storage industry in an effort to further boost performance on the zEC12. In a first for IBM mainframes, the system includes Flash Express, a pool of solid state storage that speeds up application performance by employing speedy flash chips.

The zEC12 also uses transactional memory technology similar to that used in Sequoia, the IBM Blue Gene/Q-based super computer at Lawrence Livermore Labs that topped the Top500 list. In reworking the tech for commercial applications, it now allows "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," says IBM.

All told, the enhancements align IBM mainframes with the biggest trends reshaping IT today, according to IBM's System z general manager, Doug Balog.

"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," said Balog in a company statement.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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