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A Perfect Union

New encryption facility for z/OS strengthens mainframe bond.

New encryption facility for z/OS strengthens mainframe bond.

"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue"-this traditional bridal attire rhyme dates back to the Victorian era. This marriage rule was said to protect the wedding couple from exposure to bad things. The old item sometimes stood for continuity or could represent what the couple was leaving behind or something that would be passed on. The new item often stood for optimism for the future or could represent something unique to this union. The borrowed item stood for happiness or could be symbolic of someone you admired or respected. Brides were to add something blue to represent fidelity and good fortune.

It could be said that the IBM* Encryption Facility for z/OS*-a modern marriage of sorts-was founded somewhat on the same principals as the well-known bridal rhyme.

Something Old

Encryption-the art of concealing information by substituting parts of the information with symbols, numbers or pictures-has been around for centuries, so it not only represents continuity but also something old being passed on. In fact, encryption has probably been around as long as people have been communicating secrets. In one of the first known examples of cryptography, Spartan generals wrote messages on a strip of paper wrapped around a cylinder. When the message was unwound it appeared to be nonsense. The designated recipient knew that the key to decode the message was to rewind the strip around a similar size cylinder.

The Greeks were the first to use ciphers such as numerical substitutions or coordinates for the alphabet that was laid out in a numeric grid. This type of a cipher could be easily changed by altering the pattern of the letters within the matrix. Julius Caesar was known to use a cipher made up of a simple letter substitution. By swapping one letter for another such as a D substituted for an A and an E for a B, Caesar could disguise his messages and communicate securely with his trusted advisors.

Technology has evolved so quickly that the need to protect information grows just as the reliability of older encryption techniques decreases. Encryption has grown into such a specialized field that even today's powerful computers can take months or even years to break some cipher texts. And although encryption has been around for centuries, it continues to evolve with technology advance and is still considered one of the best ways to protect sensitive data.

The mainframe's high availability, scale, resilience and remote recovery capabilities make it a logical choice for storing and managing encryption keys.

Nancy Eade is a worldwide marketing manager for IBM. She can be reached at

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