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IBM Z – That which was old is young again

Marco Leoncelli, Solutions Specialist, IBM Systems for Cloud Platforms, ANZ | Dec. 14, 2017
The recent launch of the IBM z14 enterprise system reminds us that the mainframe platform did not die in the early ‘90s, as predicted by a number of very clever people.

  In what must be confusing for many of us, the old girl/boy (pick whichever works for you) is somehow becoming younger throughout each generation. I wish I could say the same for myself.

How is the IBM Z becoming younger? Well, it is now an increasingly relevant platform in the new, hip, bearded world of ‘The Digital Economy’ we all live and work in.

  • With the z14, IBM introduced Machine Learning on the mainframe. We can leverage open-source machine learning tools and methodologies to extract insights from our valuable data at the point it originates from. Running cognitive operations on the mainframe reduces data movement costs and drives near/real time intelligence.
  • Cloud, cloud, cloud. Core systems running on z14 can use application program interfaces (APIs) and microservices to connect, integrate and work seamlessly with common processes and tools in a hybrid cloud environment. This cuts new service build times by up to 90%, driving innovation whilst making compliance easier.
  • Security matters more than ever. Nothing kills customer trust faster than a loss of private data, or a highly-publicised systems breach. The latest generation of mainframes was designed to allow the encryption of everything, all the time, both data in-flight and at-rest. No other platform can achieve this at equivalent scale or low cost.
  • Blockchain will do for transactions what the internet has done for information. We now have the opportunity to securely run blockchain on a server platform tightly integrated with our protected transactional data and applications.

 However; though the world literally runs on the mainframe, many of us struggle to understand what it is and how it helps us connect.

There are numerous reasons for this:

IBM customers do not often publicise details regarding their core systems due to security concerns or to protect their competitive advantage.
 Mainframes rarely fail. They are incredibly resilient and stay ‘up’, which is not very news worthy.

  • The mainframe is the most secure platform available. Though reassuring, this is also not very interesting to people – until it fails them.
  • The language of the mainframe is, unfortunately, incomprehensible – CICS, zIIPs, frame, drawer, MIPS, RACF, OTC, Parallel Sysplex, IFL, ICF and on and on and on. 
  •  Listen to a conversation between mainframe enthusiasts at your peril.  Trust me. You don’t want to.

 From time to time, clients ask questions such as, ‘Why do we still need mainframes?’

Over the last year, I hear more of them asking, ‘What else can I do with my mainframes?’.

Thankfully, IBM created a rather nice web page, explaining how the mainframe is more relevant and important than ever. It includes material which outlines some of the ‘What else can it do?’ considerations.

As a bonus, IBM did so using plain English.

Though aimed at the banking industry, I believe it can help all of us better understand how the mainframe remains extremely valuable, by combining legacy and next-generation - all in the same black and blue box. 

Please visit the page here

The next-generation platform for banks 
As for the ‘Why do we need it?’. Examples of how the mainframe continues to securely serve our world today include:

  • 87 percent of all credit card transactions
  • 29 billion ATM transactions each year
  • Four billion passenger flights each year.
  • More than 30 billion transactions per day – 10 times more than the number of daily Google searches.


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