Three Things You Need to Know About Mainframes in the Cloud — and Why the z13s Rocks!

When you give a child a hammer, everything looks like a nail — your counter, the floor, your iPhone, the cat. Pounding these targets with a hammer may feel right, but it’s not really the right tool for the job.

Many businesses view the cloud as the new hammer. Organizations tend to believe that the generic resources of the cloud are the hammer for every business problem. They assume that the same cloud resources they use for storing data or integrating with mobile apps can also be used to address every other business need. However, that is not the case.

With the cloud, you can store data, write social networking applications, order a ride to the airport and share data globally. But for applications that require high-volume transaction processing, you need more than generic cloud resources. You need cloud resources that are specifically designed to meet the demands of these unique business requirements. Your cloud needs a z13s.

Lesson One: Secure, High-Volume Transaction Processing Is a Business Necessity

The concept of transaction processing has been around for decades. In fact, it has been around for so long that we take it for granted. What does high-volume transaction processing feel like? Let’s review.

Have you waited in a line at the store to check out and noticed that the clerk is waiting to get a response from the cash register for the customer in front of you? Have you tried to check in to your flight at the earliest possible moment so you could get your preferred seat, but the Internet seems to take forever? Have you tried to purchase concert tickets the second they go on sale, but your computer does not seem fast enough? These scenarios highlight the effect of delays in transaction processing.

If we multiply these activities by order of magnitude (because there are a lot of customers), we can find the true source of the bottleneck. In the back end of the transaction-o-sphere, a cluster of computers is using all of its resources to process each transaction request in the order in which it was received. But as more people submit more transactions, the resource becomes even more overloaded and the delay in processing gets worse.

Mainframe computing was designed to directly address this need. It was designed to handle large quantities of transactions and respond quickly to rapid spikes in demand. Mainframes are not a general purpose computer, like a distributed server. Mainframes are a secure, high-performance, transaction-processing juggernaut.

Lesson Two: Security Means Encryption

Transaction processing requires more than just the ability provide high-speed parallel throughput. In today’s high-volume online world, transaction processing also needs to be completed securely. That means the data needs to be decrypted, processed and re-encrypted in real time. Mainframes meet this need because the underlying hardware of a mainframe includes cryptographic accelerators so transactions are processed securely and without delay.

Encryption Makes a Difference

What is encryption, and why is it important? An example will help here. Below is information that will provide you my debit card, PIN, bank information and my Social Security number in an encrypted format. I am quite comfortable placing it here because it is encrypted (and I have the key). Call me when you unencrypt it — my contact information is included in the ciphertext.

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

The example above shows the true value of encryption. It appears to be a random sequence of characters, but buried within it is valuable information. You just need the encryption key to decrypt it.

Hacks Expose Poor Security Practices

The last five years of hacks has highlighted, in no uncertain terms, how much damage can occur when data is stored or used in an unencrypted format. In fact, the publication of hacks due to firms storing or processing unencrypted data is occurring so frequently that sites are creating top 10 lists about these incidents.

These include “The 10 Biggest Bank Card Hacks,” “Three Lessons From the Heartland Breach the Second Time Around,” “Three Lessons From the Target Hack of Encrypted PIN Data” and, my personal favorite, “Two Important Lessons From the Ashley Madison Breach.” These stories and lists provide a nice roster of candidates for the Darwin Awards for Cybersecurity.

The bottom line is that all of your data needs to be encrypted, and the resources you use in the cloud need to be able to handle the processing of encrypted data in real time and without delay. Taking a shortcut, such as keeping your data unencrypted because you think it is easier or simpler, may seem like a good idea, but it is isn’t. Taking such risks is like skiing naked.

When you are looking for transaction processing, our grocery list now has two things on it: high throughput and encrypted transaction processing.

Lesson Three: There Is No Substitute for Cloud-Friendly Mainframes

As a business, you still want to leverage the benefits of the cloud. However, you are now concerned that it may not have the cryptographically secured, warp-10 throughput that you need — and you need more than just virtualized computers in the cloud.

Luckily, IBM recently announced the z13s. This is the computing equivalent of combining a Caterpillar 797 and an F-35 Lightning II. The z13s is designed to double the secure throughput of any predecessor. It is made to handle the high demands of secure transaction processing but also has the advanced capabilities to integrate with any cloud application.

That means that your purchase, bid, tickets or seat assignment all happen without delay because the business bringing you those applications is integrating with a secure, high-volume, transaction-designed rocket ship made for exactly that kind of job.

Bonus: How the z13s Can Help

There are companies that will say they are visionaries in security machines, but the true security machines of tomorrow are those built on the decades of research and innovation available today in the z13s.

Other visionaries may work to convince you that you can just point and click and another thousand hosts will be cloned in some cloud built for peddling books, but those solutions will not address the need for cryptographic, high-speed transaction processing. It is akin to hammering your phone with a thousand hammers to make it reboot faster.

Real computing solutions come from leaders who have a legacy of innovation. The z13s highlights this innovation and brings high-volume transaction processing to the cloud so that real businesses can securely process real volumes of real transactions in real time. This capacity not only helps with today’s transactions, but also future transactions such as those leveraging virtualized currency or blockchains.

PCs are good for making PowerPoints. Distributed servers are good for running blogs or storing files. Macs are good for making movies and pictures. iPhones are good for taking photos and publishing to Instagram or Facebook. But if you want to securely process every transaction from every online session from every customer in the world without any delay, you want a z13s.

Anything less is like skiing naked. With hammers. You do not want to be that guy.

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Rick Robinson

Product Manager, Encryption and Key Management

Rick Robinson comes from a diverse background of architecture, development, and deployment of new products and services that employ cryptography in one form or another. He has numerous patents in the area of cryptography and computer security and helped customers in the financial, health, retail, manufacturing, and government sectors. Rick has been an active proponent of cryptography for business – applying standards-based cryptography, key management, PKI, and secure protocols to help business stay competitive in the ever-changing world of data security.