Earlier this week IBM introduced the z13s, what it calls World’s most secure server, built for hybrid cloud, and sized for mid-sized organizations. The z13s promises better business outcomes, faster decision making, less regulatory exposure, greater scale, and better fraud protection. And at the low end it is accessible to smaller enterprises, maybe those who have never tried a z before.
z13s features embedded cryptography that brings the benefits of the mainframe to mid-sized organizations . Courtesy IBM
A machine like the low end z13s used to be referred to as a business class (BC) mainframe. IBM declined to quote a price, except to say z13s will go “for about the same price as previous generations for the equivalent capacity.” OK, back in July 2013 IBM published the base price of the zEC12 BC machine at $75,000. IBM made a big deal of that pricing at the time.
The key weasel phrase in IBM’s statement is: “for the equivalent capacity.” Two and a half years ago the $75k zEC12 BC offered significantly more power than its predecessor. Figuring out equivalent capacity today given all the goodies IBM is packing into the new machine, like built-in chip-based cryptography and more, is anybody’s guess. However, given the plummeting costs of IT components over the past two years, you should get it at a base price of $100k or less. If not, call Intel. Adds IBM: The infrastructure costs of z13s are comparable to the Public Cloud infrastructure costs with enterprise support; significant software savings result from core consolidation on the z13s.
But the z13s is not just about price. As digital business becomes a standard practice and transaction volumes increase, especially mobile transaction volumes, the need for increased security becomes paramount. Cybercrime today has shifted. Rather than stealing data criminals are compromising data accuracy and reliability. This is where the z13s’ bolstered built-in security and access to APIs and microservices in a hybrid cloud setting can pay off by keeping data integrity intact.
IBM’s z13s, described as the new entry point to the z Systems portfolio for enterprises of all sizes, is packed with a number of security innovations. (DancingDinosaur considered the IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper as the current z entry point but it is a Linux-only machine.) For zOS the z13s will be the entry point. The security innovations include:
- Ability to encrypt sensitive data without compromising transactional throughput and response time through its updated cryptographic and tamper-resistant hardware-accelerated cryptographic coprocessor cards with faster processors and more memory. In short: encryption at twice the speed equates to processing twice as many online or mobile device purchases in the same time, effectively helping to lower the cost per transaction.
- Leverage the z Systems Cyber Security Analytics offering, which delivers an advanced level of threat monitoring based on behavior analytics. Also part of the package, IBM® Security QRadar® security software correlates data from more than 500 sources to help organizations determine if security-related events are simply anomalies or potential threats, This z Systems Cyber Security Analytics service will be available at no-charge, as a beta offering for z13 and z13s customers.
- IBM Multi-factor Authentication for z/OS (MFA) is now available on z/OS. The solution adds another layer of security by requiring privileged users to enter a second form of identification, such as a PIN or randomly generated token, to gain access to the system. This is the first time MFA has been tightly integrated in the operating system, rather than through an add-on software solution. This level of integration is expected to deliver more streamlined configuration and better stability and performance.
Hybrid computing and hybrid cloud also play a big part in IBM’s thinking latest around z Systems. As IBM explains, hybrid cloud infrastructure offers advantages in flexibility but can also present new vulnerabilities. When paired with z Systems, IBM’s new security solutions can allow clients to establish end-to-end security in their hybrid cloud environment.
Specifically, IBM Security Identity Governance and Intelligence can help prevent inadvertent or malicious internal data loss by governing and auditing access based on known policies while granting access to those who have been cleared as need-to-know users. IBM Security Guardium uses analytics to help ensure data integrity by providing intelligent data monitoring, which tracks users as they access specific data and help to identify threat sources quickly in the event of a breach. IBM Security zSecure and QRadar use real-time alerts to focus on the identified critical security threats that matter the most.
Conventional z System data centers should have no difficulty migrating to the z13 or even the z13s. IBM told DancingDinosaur it will continue to protect a client’s investment in technology with serial number preservation on the IBM z13s. The company also is offering upgrades from the zEnterprise BC12 (zBC12) and from the zEnterprise 114 (z114) to the z13s. Of course, it supports upgradeability within the IBM z13 family; a z13s N20 model can be upgraded to the z13 N30 model. And once the z13s is installed it allows on demand offerings to access temporary or permanent capacity as needed.
DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.