IBM bets on smaller, faster, more secure mainframe

IBM unveils a smaller, faster, more secure mainframe computer to compete with increasingly popular, low-cost, PC-based enterprise servers

IBM has announced a smaller, faster, more secure mainframe computer to compete with increasingly popular, lower cost, PC-based enterprise servers.

The move is aimed at countering a long-term decline in the sales of mainframes and securing IBM’s position as a dominant supplier to banks and other organisations with heavy data-processing needs.

Research firm Gartner predicts mainframe sales will decline by up to 14% in the next five years.

IBM spent $1bn to develop the zEnterprise EC12 in 18 IBM labs around the world and in collaboration with some of IBM's top clients.

IBM claims its new mainframe has 25% more performance per core, 50% more total capacity and better security and data analytics tools than predecessors. It also incorporates the world’s fastest chip running at 5.5GHz.

IBM said its System z is the only commercial server to achieve Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level 5+ security classification. The zEC12 builds on this to help protect data at rest or on the move.  

The zEC12 has a tamper-resistant cryptographic co-processor called Crypto Express4S. This provides privacy for transactions and sensitive data. The Crypto Express4S technology includes new hardware and software developed with IBM Research to help meet the security requirements of different industries and geographies.

For example, the zEC12 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.

The zEC12 is the first IBM mainframe to include internal solid state technology with Flash Express, a new memory technology that can improve the performance of data-intensive applications or workloads where optimal service levels are vital. These include customer-facing or service applications used by banks, public sector companies and retailers.

Analysts say improvements will keep existing customers happy but are unlikely to win IBM new clients, according to the BBC.

IBM said it would start shipping zEnterprise EC12 computers in September.

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