When people use the phrase “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore,” 100-year-old bridges, Jon Snow’s sword and American muscle cars often come to mind. If the topic of discussion happens to be computer technology, however, mainframes are without a doubt the Valyrian steel of the enterprise and lucky for us, are still in production today. While the cloud computing concept as we know it has been around for only about a decade, mainframes have been delivering on-demand access to compute and storage resources that are safe, scalable, highly available and resilient for half a century.
Big Iron Advantage
In today’s enterprise scenario, the mission to gain an edge over the competition in terms of pure horsepower can be elusive, to say the least. Although 20% of the easy enterprise workloads have moved to cloud platforms, it is estimated a large amount of data and applications continue to be run on-premise as enterprises determine their hybrid cloud strategy. Far from being irrelevant, mainframe architecture now finds itself at the center of this digital battle, causing disruption and giving its users a much-coveted and undeniable edge over the competition. In addition to running over 8,000 VMs on a single system, mainframes offer some of the most scalable storage in the industry.
In case that isn’t enough, couple that with pervasive encryption, multi-factor authentication, a co-processor dedicated to cryptography and the most trusted and secure Linux environment in the industry today. What you get in the end is a major breakthrough with regard to cloud limitations that many early adopters of cloud technology found out about the hard way. These limitations are especially true with regard to cybersecurity, and though private clouds help alleviate these risks to an extent, IBM Z removes these risks by enabling all-encompassing encryption.
Enabling the Hybrid Cloud
While most people were skeptical of mainframes making a comeback until about a year ago, the majority seem to have changed their tune. There are two reasons for this: One is IBM’s new take on the mainframe, called IBM Z; and the other reason is its applications with regard to the hybrid cloud. Hybrid basically refers to organizations using a broad combination of public, private, IaaS and Paas in the same application solution. Mainframes are proving an important part of hybrid infrastructure thanks to the massive compute, storage and scalability features they can deliver.
Another advantage mainframes have in a hybrid environment is simplicity. Every engineer knows the more moving parts, the higher the risk of a breakdown, and the same holds true for the hybrid cloud. In a complex, multi-cloud environment that often spans more than one public cloud and a variety of on-prem resources, the more discrete devices involved in a network, the higher the risk of something failing. With a mainframe like the IBM Z, you have one device that delivers broad functionality at high efficiency and low cost. And it does it for a few decades, without complaining.
IBM Z and the Cloud
IBM’s Z models are lean, mean, transacting machines. Recent innovations in hardware and software design have made it possible to run not just native mainframe apps, but also most Linux-based operating systems and applications on these systems. IBM Z also features machine learning and AI frameworks, as well as support for Apache SparkML, TensorFlow and languages such as Scala and Python. Capable of running more than 12 billion fully encrypted transactions per day on a single machine and 850 million on IBM’s skinny version, the z14 has a 35% capacity increase for workloads compared to the z13, and it’s being touted as the most powerful transaction machine in existence today.
Combining mainframes and cloud platforms in today’s hybrid environments may sound like old wine in a new bottle, but it effectively gives you the best of both worlds–the scalability of the cloud, along with the power, security and dependability of the mainframe. Additionally, the mainframe’s ability to house both data and applications on the same device, while dedicating processors to specific operations independently, make it ideal for ensuring speed in such complex and distributed environments. IBM Z also features a multiple processing structure that makes it ideal for dealing with the varying bandwidth needs of modern applications. It can process Java workloads up to 50% faster than x86 servers.
Forty-four of the top 50 banks in the world run on IBM Z servers right now. They understand that running their applications on a mainframe provides security and scalability for a compelling return on investment. Large enterprise systems have had a perception of being expensive, but when you factor in such things as space, power and cooling efficiency, as well as the number of personnel required to administer the system, the total cost of ownership is a value-add when leveraging Z in your hybrid cloud strategy.