HAMPTON, N.H. – The market for servers not based on x86 processors is approaching an inflection point, as customers balance their need for cost-effective and flexible solutions with heightened performance and security requirements for emerging digital use cases tuned for the Business of One era.

IBM’s server lines have historically been known for being higher performing than their x86 counterparts, and recently, with the unveiling of the z14, they are investing in improving their reputation for even greater security capabilities achieved through pervasive encryption, which reinforces IBM’s differentiation in the server market.

On April 10, IBM unveiled the latest additions to the IBM Z family tree, which include new system models designed to be more cost-effective and, therefore, more desirable in the midmarket and more suitable for cloud environments. LinuxONE and z14 also now have a build-your-own-device feel to them whereby customers can select their choice of mainframe servers, storage and switches to optimize the mainframe stack for specific application use cases.

Recent developments to LinuxONE and z14 also enable these platforms to be viable options for hosting cloud-native and container-based applications. This further expands IBM’s presence in the cloud space, and emphasizes the pervasive encryption capabilities of z14, highlighting the hyper-security achievable through an IBM mainframe-based cloud environment.

  • The IBM z14 ZR1 is purpose-built for secure private cloud environments for midmarket customers

In 2017 IBM unveiled the z14, the newest generation in the Z family. The z14 has pervasive encryption, which means the mainframe can encrypt 100% of data without significantly slowing down the system. This is a key differentiator in the server market, as no other server to date provides this level of security on its own without impacting SLAs.

With the rising prevalence and heightened complexity of cybercrime, pervasive encryption is a major advantage in the market, especially considering that recent findings indicate the most data stolen between 2013 and 2017 was not encrypted, indicating there is a need for these capabilities.

Despite the security advantages the z14 can offer, a major roadblock still stands between it and smaller-scale adoption: price perception. The market perceives IBM mainframes as being very expensive machines when compared to their lower-performing x86 counterparts. For many smaller customers, x86 performance is good enough and the perceived cost difference between x86 and Z is not justifiable. IBM has a response to this concern, however: the z14 ZR1, a system that is designed to address the demands of the midmarket and is optimized for transaction processing workloads.

This system offers a new entry-level option with 88 MIPS, but also has the full Z01 uniprocessor available. These systems have between 64GB and 8TB of memory and contain PCIe Gen 3 IBM zHyperlink capabilities, which demonstrate that this system was designed to evolve with changing demands and is well positioned to be leveraged for secure private cloud installments. IBM zHyperlink also enables customers to more seamlessly connect multiple systems in a given environment together, which likely simplifies system management and increases flexibility and scalability.

  • Rockhopper II: LinuxONE designed to meet midmarket demand for cloud-based, data-intensive workloads of the future

Although IBM has been investing in the Linux market since 1999, the LinuxONE platform was originally introduced in 2015 with the unveiling of Emperor and Rockhopper. Rockhopper at that time was marketed as an entry-level mainframe solution. The newest addition to the LinuxONE family, Rockhopper II, is designed to take IBM’s Linux mainframe play even further down the stack into the midmarket.

IBM touts that its LinuxONE solutions can be up to nine times faster at encryption than their x86 counterparts, driving home the company’s emphasis on hypersecurity with its mainframe portfolio. Rockhopper II also provides Secure Service Container capabilities for applications in Linux-based environments.

Further, these LinuxONE solutions work well for data-intensive workloads, such as artificial intelligence and databases, and some features include standardization around the typical 19-inch rack, which enables customers to reduce power and footprint costs over older models. Recently, IBM strengthened its LinuxONE position in the hybrid cloud space, and TBR believes Rockhopper II reinforces IBM’s ability to handle data-intensive workloads in the cloud more securely and more efficiently than x86 solutions in many cases.