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New IBM z14 Capabilities Make it Easy to Get Started in the Cloud

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Barry Baker Vice President, Offering Management for IBM Z and LinuxONE-Photo by Bill Bernstein


July’s IBM z14* announcement features technology to make cloud computing easier for IBM Z* organizations. With a strong focus on pervasive encryption—where organizations can encrypt data associated with an entire application, cloud service or database in flight or at rest (ibm.co/2fzkphp)—encrypted APIs, a new pricing model, blockchain services and more, clients can feel safer about their data in the era of cloud.

“There are things we did in the hardware in the new z14 to help further enable cloud adoption,” says Barry Baker, vice president, offering management for IBM Z and LinuxONE*. “But the full set of cloud capabilities is delivered through innovation and co-creation across the full stack, including the z14 hardware and firmware, the virtualization and operating system layers, and the platform software we’ve delivered. This full stack integration enables us to deliver cloud capabilities that perform and scale with ease. We have a lot more flexibility as you go up the stack in terms of the software. That’s because you need to innovate across the stack for full cloud capabilities.”

For enterprises that have considered this type of computing capability, the z14 offers a quick and easy way to step into the cloud.

Into the Cloud

With the introduction of the z14, IBM has made improvements to the scale and performance of the mainframe. In addition, the way the platform can scale and handle bursts of traffic and workloads “is all driven by the work we are doing with our clients as they open up new channels from the cloud through APIs,” Baker says. “When our clients do this, the demands on their systems become less predictable, putting a premium on the need for their systems to be responsive while not impacting any other workload.”

Here’s a case in point. In China, Nov. 11 is known as Singles Day—a day when single people buy each other gifts. “It is not uncommon for some of our largest mainframe users in China to see their workload demands spike by 2x in support of the increased shopping that’s done that day,” Baker says. “And this demand is met without the need to provision additional servers or change their configurations.”

That’s the cloud integration side—enabling new apps to use high-value data and applications on these systems. Then there’s cloud management, which Baker describes as “helping our clients deliver cloud outcomes to their business in their own environment.” This, combined with the full portfolio of offerings IBM has delivered to support DevOps on IBM Z, allows clients to quickly deliver new applications on the platform.

Baker notes that there’s no one type of workload being put in the cloud. But in general, clients that are using the public cloud are creating applications that have certain characteristics. Typically, those include low security and data governance requirements. Those applications, he adds, “may have loose coupling to their core systems that execute their core business processes—things like email, file sharing, collaboration and customer relationship management.”

“Our cloud story continues to evolve. It is a very exciting time for IBM Z.”
—Barry Baker

IBM’s cloud offerings are as flexible as clients need. “We are not saying that the mainframe is right for everything” to be moved to cloud, Baker says. “But if you have high data and transaction-intensity workloads with demanding requirements around governance, control and privacy protection, then you are in the sweet spot for the mainframe.”

Choosing a Cloud

For enterprises considering cloud computing, there are numerous possibilities to consider. Should a company operate its own cloud (i.e., on-premises) or work with a public cloud provider (i.e., off-premises)?

In considering a cloud environment, Baker says the chief question enterprises need to ask themselves is: “What does the workload demand?” What are the security requirements, for instance? How customized does the solution need to be? What are the performance requirements? Depending on the answers, enterprises might wish to consider yet another approach. This is the hybrid cloud, which allows organizations to use their own private clouds for some workloads and the public one for others, depending on the need. (Determine what cloud solution is right for your organization and workloads in “Open and Connected”.)

The hybrid cloud option is gaining more traction in the marketplace, particularly with larger clients that have complex needs. “From the mainframe perspective, the major industries we play in—banking, finance, healthcare, insurance, retail—are all looking at a hybrid model,” Baker says. “Some clients have told us, ‘We will always have our own data centers, we will always run our own infrastructure and platforms for some workloads, and we will evolve those systems toward a cloud model.’ ” This is primarily driven by security and privacy—banking and healthcare are two industries that have extremely high and increasing regulatory burdens.

Other clients have started on the public cloud for some workloads, but as their needs have evolved, they’ve found it more economical to run in their own on-premises cloud. “From my perspective, IT is additive,” Baker says. “Few deployed things of any real substance just go away. They get reused, integrated with and into, and they evolve.” That’s why “hybrid is what we’re going to see more and more going forward.” As an enterprise’s needs grow and change, the hybrid cloud model can offer greater flexibility.

Take banking, for instance. Workloads in that industry can be broken into a number of components. “You can break that workload into payments, core banking transactions, general ledger,” Baker says. All these components have rigorous requirements in terms of I/O, data, transaction volume and security. As a result, these elements are likely to stay in an on-premises environment. With less demanding components, such as marketing, sales and customer account management, “you could make a case that the public cloud could meet the needs of those components,” Baker says.

Many enterprises are using the hybrid model when developing and testing new applications. To accommodate that growing demand, IBM announced in July a new pricing model (ibm.co/2gomJrh) that allows clients to grow their development and test environment “dramatically, without incurring any additional software costs,” Baker says.

Getting Started

For connecting to any kind of cloud, enterprises can start with APIs. Using IBM z/OS* Connect enables cloud and mobile developers to take advantage of existing apps and data on z14 as they create new apps. This can be accelerated with IBM Application Discovery technology, which can be used to quickly find services in IBM Z applications. These applications can then be opened through the creation of APIs that are usable from any platform without having to know anything about the mainframe.

For managing the development environment using cloud techniques, newcomers can start by using several tools, particularly IBM Cloud Provisioning and Management for z/OS, along with the z/OS Provisioning Toolkit. This set of tools can rapidly and safely provision, in a self-service way, z/OS-based resources for development, test and production environments, which can be used as part of implementing a full DevOps solution on IBM Z.

IBM Z’s capabilities will continue to expand. One area that IBM is actively pursuing is blockchain workloads. “This is also on IBM Z,” Baker notes. “It just happens to be running on IBM’s public cloud.” Blockchain workloads have very high security requirements and challenging transaction-processing demands. While blockchain is still new to the enterprise world, more and more industries are becoming intrigued by its possibilities for managing and securing databases and transactions.

Client demands will change and grow. And so, Baker says, will IBM’s cloud offerings. The powerful new capabilities of the z14 represent a new chapter in that story—but far from the last one. “Our cloud story continues to evolve,” he says. “It is a very exciting time for IBM Z.”

Gene Rebeck is a freelance writer based in Duluth, Minnesota.


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