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IBM is launching what it calls a “skinny mainframe” for cloud computing. The system is built around IBM z14 mainframe technology, and it features a 19-inch industry standard, single-frame case design, allowing for easy placement into public cloud data centers and for private cloud deployments.

IBM wants the aging traditional mainframe to survive in the era of digital business, and it argues that the mainframe remains the most stable, secure, and mature environment for information technology, including blockchain-based processing.

“This will bring the power of the IBM Z to an even broader center of clients seeking robust security with pervasive encryption, machine learning, cloud capabilities and powerful analytics,” said Ross Mauri, general manager of IBM Z, in a statement. “Not only does this increase security and capability in on-premises and hybrid cloud environments for clients, we also will deploy the new systems in our IBM public cloud data centers as we focus on enhancing security and performance for increasingly intensive data loads.”

According to IBM, 87 percent of all credit card transactions and nearly $8 trillion payments a year are processed on mainframes. Further, the platform manages 29 billion ATM transactions each year, equivalent to nearly $5 billion per day. If you’re traveling by plane, you can thank a mainframe, as they are also responsible for processing 4 billion passenger flights each year.


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IBM said mainframes are also critical in a world of increasing cybersecurity concerns. According to Gemalto’s Breach Level Index, of the nearly 10 billion records breached since 2013, only 4 percent of the stolen data was encrypted and thus rendered useless to hackers.

Capable of processing over 850 million fully encrypted transactions a day on a single system, skinny mainframes do not have special space, cooling, or energy requirements, but they still provide pervasive encryption and Secure Service Container technology for secure data serving at massive scale, IBM said.

With the mainframe in high demand and more relevant than ever, IBM worked closely on the design with more than 80 clients, including managed service providers, online banks, and insurance firms, to reinvent the mainframe for a whole new class of users.

The new z14 and LinuxOne offerings also bring significant increases in capacity, performance, memory, and cache across nearly all aspects of the system. A complete system redesign delivers this capacity growth in 40 percent less space, standardized to be deployed in any data center. The z14 ZR1, announced today, can be the foundation for an IBM Cloud Private solution, creating a “data center in a box” by co-locating storage, networking, and other elements in the same physical frame as the mainframe server.

The z14 ZR1 delivers 10 percent more capacity than its predecessor, the z13s, and, at 8TB, twice the memory. The system can handle more than 850 million fully encrypted transactions per day.

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