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IBM z16 Accelerates AI, Simplifies Compliance, Safeguards Data and Avoids Outages

Following the IBM z16 GA on May 31, IBM’s Kelly Pushong highlights key IBM z16 benefits, community reactions and the importance of collaboration for this latest zSystems release

The May 31 GA of the IBM z16 marks an exciting new beginning. But it’s also the culmination of a planning and development process that, more than ever, actively involves the company’s mainframe client base.

Engaging with clients to better understand the business challenges they face has always been a priority for IBM. Nonetheless, the ramp-up to the IBM z16 unveiling saw unprecedented levels of client interaction. According to Kelly Pushong, principal product manager for the IBM z16, team members met with hundreds of individuals representing more than 70 client enterprises, and logged more than 1,100 hours of active engagement.

Kelly Pushong stands next to the IBM z16.

“We use Design Thinking to understand what clients pain points and most pressing business problems are,” says Pushong. “We met with broad spectrum of personas, ranging from application developers, data scientists, security architects, C-suite executives, members of the auditing community and more. This helped us understand the perspective of not only the end-users, but also key decision makers and stakeholders. We leveraged the IBM zSystems Sponsor User program and customer councils where we have deep client relationships.

‘The Core 4’ of IBM z16 Benefits

As new systems are now being delivered worldwide, this idea of delivering business value remains foremost with Pushong. “The Core Four” is the umbrella she uses to succinctly describe how clients will benefit from the IBM z16 and its industry-first innovations, and includes:

1. Making faster decisions with AI: To this point, enterprises are often not able to realize the full value of AI in real-time due to design of existing IT architectures where AI is performed off-platform. But IBM’s new Telum processor, which introduces an on-chip AI accelerator that delivers high speed, low latency inferencing for embedding AI into response time-sensitive transactions, processes up to 300 billion inference requests per day with consistent 1ms response time[1]. Beyond that, the accelerator designed for simultaneous processing of AI inferencing and traditional transactional workloads at speed and scale.

With these capabilities, clients can make more and better use of AI, particularly when it comes to processing real-time payments and fighting theft and fraud. “AI models built for fraud prevention have two objectives: there’s the actual fraudulent transaction you want to stop, and then there’s the false positives you want to reduce—where your customer’s card is denied for a valid transaction,” says Pushong. “Today banks can often only score about 10% of their transactions for fraud in real-time due to stringent SLAs. With the new on-chip AI accelerator, clients are able to score 100% of their transactions for fraud in real time. What would that mean to a large bank? The estimate is over $100 million in savings per year[2].”

2. Simplifying the compliance process: For all the attention and effort given to IT modernization and automation initiatives, compliance audits remain a largely manual and (not coincidentally) error-prone and costly process. As part of the IBM z16 delivery, IBM is introducing the IBM Z Security and Compliance Center. Featuring automated collection collection of data and validation against specific regulatory controls, this software solution is designed to dramatically reduce the number of skilled resources needed for audit preparation tasks. Determining one’s compliance posture is a simple matter of viewing status on the interactive dashboard that is part of the IBM Z Security and Compliance Center.

3. Safeguarding data: As the industry’s first quantum-safe system, the IBM z16 is designed to broaden and strengthen the concept of cyber resiliency by protecting data against future threats. Particularly among clients that have sensitive data that has to be retained for long periods of time, growing attention is being paid to the prospect of quantum technology’s potential to break current cryptography in the near future. In addition to the firmware being protected against quantum attacks, IBM z16 has new quantum-safe APIs so clients can begin integrating quantum-safe cryptography into existing and new applications now[3].

To aid in developing a crypto inventory, IBM Application Discovery and Delivery Intelligence (ADDI), can quickly identify vulnerable cryptographic calls buried in millions of lines of code. “The interest and worry that we hear from clients about bad actors using quantum computing to break today’s cryptography and expose data at a future date—this notion of harvest now, decrypt later—has increased dramatically over the past two years,” says Pushong. “When I speak to clients, one thing I emphasize is that if their data isn’t protected with quantum-safe cryptography, it’s as if it is essentially being stored in the clear because it can be exposed later. They need to make tangible plans. And the first step is developing a crypto inventory—they need to find where and what type of crypto is being used so they know what to change.”

4. Proactively avoid outages: Of course the IBM mainframe is known for world-class reliability—now seven nines worth, to be precise. But the IBM z16 itself is designed for resiliency, with additional new capabilities to help clients proactively avoid outages in advance of extreme weather events, simplify business continuity compliance and manage disaster recovery scenarios. With IBM z16’s new Flexible Capacity for Cyber Resiliency capability, clients can dynamically shift capacity between IBM z16 systems on alternate sites within seconds. They can do this up to 12 times per year and the capacity can remain at the alternate site for up to a year. In addition, as they modernize applications or otherwise modify their architectures, clients now have the flexibility to conduct disaster recovery testing more frequently with this capability.

Delivering Innovation to Clients

Pushong says she’s been highlighting the Core Four with clients for months. The response from clients has been consistent. “My colleague and I typically tag-team. I go through the main value propositions and highlight the Core Four and he takes them through the hardware details and innovations. Inevitably we walk away with them wanting deeper dives into on one or more of these topics.

“To me that says we got it right with the IBM z16,” she adds. “It’s exciting that now clients have it in their hands.”

[1] With IBM z16, process up to 300 billion inference requests per day with 1ms response time using a Credit Card Fraud Detection model. Performance result is extrapolated from IBM internal tests running local inference operations in a z16 LPAR with 48 IFLs and 128 GB memory on Ubuntu 20.04 (SMT mode) using a synthetic credit card fraud detection model ( exploiting the Integrated Accelerator for AI. The benchmark was running with 8 parallel threads each pinned to the first core of a different chip. The lscpu command was used to identify the core-chip topology. A batch size of 128 inference operations was used. Results were also reproduced using a z/OS V2R4 LPAR with 24 CPs and 256 GB memory on IBM z16. The same credit card fraud detection model was used. The benchmark was executed with a single thread performing inference operations. A batch size of 128 inference operations was used. Results may vary.
[2] Operationalizing Fraud Prevention on IBM z16, Celent, April 5, 2022.
[3] IBM z16 quantum-safe secure boot technology helps to protect IBM Z firmware from quantum attacks
through a build-in dual signature scheme with no changes required. DISCLAIMER: IBM z16 is using the quantum-safe algorithms that have been summitted to the PQC standardization process conducted by NIST.