Posts Tagged ‘IBM Cloud Private software solution’

Secure Containers for the Z

October 11, 2018

What’s all this talk about secure containers? Mainframe data center managers have long used secure containers, only they call them logical partitions (LPARs). Secure service containers must be some x86 thing.

Courtesy: Mainframe Watch Belgium

Writing the first week in Oct., Ross Mauri, General Manager IBM Z, observes: Today’s executives in a digitally empowered world want IT to innovate and deliver outstanding user experiences. But, as you know, this same landscape increases exposure and scrutiny around the protection of valuable and sensitive data. IBM’s answer: new capabilities for the IBM z14 and LinuxONE platforms that handle digital transformation while responding to immediate market needs and delivering effective solutions.

The containers provide a secure service container that hosts container-based applications for hybrid and private cloud workloads on IBM LinuxONE and Z servers as an IBM Cloud Private software solution.  This secure computing environment for microservices-based applications can be deployed without requiring code changes to exploit inherent security capabilities. In the process, it provides:

  • Tamper protection during installation time
  • Restricted administrator access to help prevent the misuse of privileged user credentials
  • Automatic encryption of data both in flight and at rest

This differs from an LPAR. According to IBM, the LPAR or logical partition are, in practice, equivalent to separate mainframes. This is not trivial power. Each LPAR runs its own operating system. This can be any mainframe operating system; there is no need to run z/OS, for example, in each LPAR. The installation planners  also may elect to share I/O devices across several LPARs, but this is a local decision.

The system administrator can assign one or more system processors for the exclusive use of an LPAR. Alternately, the administrator can allow all processors to be used on some or all LPARs. Here, the system control functions (often known as microcode or firmware) provide a dispatcher to share the processors among the selected LPARs. The administrator can specify a maximum number of concurrent processors executing in each LPAR. The administrator can also provide weightings for different LPARs; for example, specifying that LPAR1 should receive twice as much processor time as LPAR2. If the code in one LPAR crashes, it has no effect on the other LPARs. Not sure this is the case with the new microservices containers.

Mauri tries to make the case for the new containers. These containers allow applications and data to inherit a layer of security with Secure Service Containers that, in turn, inherit the embedded capabilities at the core of IBM Z and LinuxONE to help hyper protect your data, guard against internal and external threats, and simplify your data compliance initiatives. DancingDinosaur does not know what “hyper protect” means in this context. Sounds like marketing-speak.

Also Mauri explains that IBM Secure Service Containers help protect the privacy of sensitive company data and customer data from administrators with elevated credentials. At the same time they allow development teams to use cutting-edge container-based technologies to deploy new or existing containerized applications.

In fact, IBM continues the explanation by saying it selected this unique and class-leading data privacy assurance technology to allow applications and data to inherit yet another layer of security through Secure Service Containers. “We’ve embedded capabilities at the core of IBM Z and LinuxONE that help hyper protect your data, guard against internal and external threats, and simplify your data compliance initiatives.” IBM does like the hyper protect phrase; wish DancingDinosaur knew what it meant. A Google search comes up with hyper Protect Crypto Services, which IBM concedes is still an experimental phase, so, in fact, it doesn’t mean anything yet. Maybe in the future.

IBM Secure Service Containers help protect the privacy of sensitive company and customer data from administrators with elevated credentials—a serious risk—while, at the same time, allowing development teams to use cutting-edge container-based technologies to deploy new or existing containerized applications. OK, DancingDinosaur can accept this but it seems only marginally different from what you can do with good ole LPARs. Maybe the difference only becomes apparent when you attempt to build the latest generation microservices-based apps.

If your choice comes down to secure service containers or LPARs, guess you need to look at what kind of apps you want to deploy. All DancingDinosaur can add is LPARs are powerful, known, and proven technology.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghost-writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog, and see more of his work at technologywriter.com.


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