IBM pumps up high-end mainframe speed, capacity

IBM today continued the evolution of its mainframe family by introducing a system it says is 25% faster and has 50% more capacity than the current high-end machine.

The zEnterprise EC12 features a number of interesting improvements including the ability to use analytics to automatically improve system health and performance, bolstered security and features that let the system save electricity. IBM noted that the system improvements represent over $1 billion in IBM research and development efforts.

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Systemwise, the EC12 features a 5.5-GHz, six-core processor, 101 cores (vs. 80 on the current z196), 161 capacity settings (vs. 125 on z196), 3Tb of memory and a radiator-based air-cooled system.

Some of the other features detailed by IBM include:

" A state-of-the-art, tamper-resistant cryptographic co-processor called Crypto Express4S that provides privacy for transactions and sensitive data. Crypto Express4S includes new hardware and software developed with IBM Research to help meet the security requirements of different industries and geographies. For example, it can be configured to provide support for high quality digital signatures used with applications for Smart passports, national ID cards and online legal proceedings, replacing handwritten signatures as directed by the EU and the public sector, IBM stated.

" The zEC12 is the first IBM mainframe to include internal solid state technology called Flash Express, a new memory technology that can help improve the performance of data intensive applications. It's designed to provide improved availability during bursts of system activity experienced at transitional periods such as when financial markets open or holiday periods when online retail transactions are heavy, IBM said.

" zEC12 is the first general purpose IBM server to incorporate transactional memory technology, first used to help make the IBM Blue Gene/Q-based "Sequoia" system at Lawrence Livermore National Lab the fastest supercomputer in the world, IBM said. In zEC12, IBM adapted this technology to enable 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.

" zEC12 advances performance for analytics, increasing performance of analytic workloads by 30% compared to its IBM predecessor, the z196. In addition, support for the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator that incorporates the Netezza data warehouse appliance into zEC12 enables clients to run complex business analytics and operational analytics on the same platform.

" The new mainframe also offers IT systems analytics capabilities based on technology from IBM Research. It analyzes internal system messages to provide a near real-time view of the system's health, including any potential problems. Called IBM zAware, the technology learns from the messages to recognize patterns and quickly pinpoint any deviations, using the information to identify unusual system behavior and minimize its impact. IBM STG Lab Services will offer services to help with planning, configuration and implementation of IBM zAware, IBM said.

From a New York Times article: "The sale of mainframe computers accounts for only about 4% of IBM's revenue these days. Yet the mainframe is a vital asset to I.B.M. because of all the business that flows from it. When all the mainframe-related software, services and storage are included, mainframe technology delivers about 25% of I.B.M.'s revenue and more than 40% of its profits, estimates A. M. Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein."

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