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Mainframe and IT 2021 Review, With a Look Toward 2022

2020 continued into 2021, giving us more of the COVID-19 era’s new normal. The Oxford Dictionary’s 2021 Word of the Year was “vax”—like vax sites, vax cards, getting vaxxed and being fully vaxxed. Collins Dictionary chose non-fungible token (NFT) as its word of the year. An NFT is a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data—e.g., a photo, video, audio file or even a Tweet that can be verified. Gartner predicts that by 2024, 50% of publicly listed companies will have some sort of NFT underpinning their brand and/or digital ecosystem presence.

Mainframe and Telum Processors

IBM didn’t announce any mainframe in 2021, just the news of the mainframe’s new processor coming in 2022. The Telum processors contain on-chip acceleration for artificial intelligence (AI) inferencing while transactions take place. Traditionally, data needed to be moved for inferencing to occur. However, with the Telum processors, the accelerator is positioned closer to the data and applications, so users can carry out high-volume inferencing for real-time transactions without using off-platform AI functions. This makes the process very quick and will allow financial institutions to move from a fraud detection to a fraud prevention posture.

According to IBM, the chip has a centralized design, allowing users to accelerate credit approval processes, identify trades and transactions likely to fail and enhance rules-based fraud detection, loan processing, clearing and settlement of trades, anti-money laundering, and risk analysis.

The seven-nanometer chip has a dual-chip module design, containing 22 billion transistors and created by the IBM Research AI Hardware Center. Samsung will manufacture the processor containing eight processor cores with a deep super-scalar out-of-order instruction pipeline and running with more than five GHz clock frequency—optimized for the demands of heterogenous enterprise class workloads.

“The completely redesigned cache and chip-interconnection infrastructure provides 32 MB cache per core and can scale to 32 Telum chips,” explains IBM. “The dual-chip module design contains 22 billion transistors and 19 miles of wire on 17 metal layers.”

AI workloads have higher computational requirements and operate on large quantities of data. For this to work successfully, the CPU and AI core need to be integrated on the same chip for low-latency AI inference, and Telum does this.

Mainframe Security

Mainframe security remains an issue. The Ponemon Institute conducted research for IBM Security to produce the annual Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021. The report found that the average cost of a breach increased from $3.86 million to $4.24 million—with a data breach in the USA averaging at $9.05 million per incident. They also found that the healthcare sector has the highest average breach cost at $9.23 million per incident. Worryingly, if a megabreach occurs, between 50 million and 65 million records would get stolen—exfiltrated—with a whopping average cost of $401 million. Detecting and containing a data breach takes a staggering 287 days on average—212 days to detect and 75 days to contain it.

The report did suggest ways to reduce the cost. Sites using security AI had breaches that cost up to $3.81 million less than organizations without it. IBM has cognitive computing with Watson for Cyber Security products, such as QRadar Advisor with Watson, IBM Security security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) platform, and IBM Security MaaS360 with Watson. The last one helps organizations to secure smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, wearables and the Internet of Things. The “M” in MaaS stands for “mobility.”

For sites using Zero Trust, breaches cost $1.76 million less on average. Zero Trust uses context-based security to isolate threats and protect data. It wraps security around users/devices/connection. When sites have security automation, breaches cost on average $2.90 million. Without it, they cost $6.71 million. When sites had a cloud modernization strategy, breaches were contained 77 days faster than for those sites who have yet to apply more modern technology. Organizations with an incident response team also lowered costs with an average breach cost of $3.25 million—rather than the average $5.71 million for those without one.

Interestingly, Gartner’s strategic technology trends for 2022 predicts the use of cybersecurity mesh architecture (CSMA), an integrated approach to securing IT assets, regardless of their location. It redefines the perimeters of cybersecurity to include the identity of a person or thing. Gartner predicts that this will reduce the financial implications of cyber incidents by 90% in less than two years.

Acquisitions and Kyndryl

In 2021, IBM acquired several companies and organizations. As a new acquisition, 7Summits drove digital transformations for Salesforce clients. Taos helped expand IBM’s hybrid cloud consulting service, and myInvenio supported organizations’ use of AI-powered automation to better streamline business processes. The acquisition of Waeg helped improve Salesforce consulting services. Buying Turbonomic expanded AIOps to application and infrastructure observability. At the time of its acquisition, BoxBoat Technologies was a cerified service provider for DevOps consultancy and enterprise Kubernetes. When IBM snatched them up, Bluetab Solutions Group offered hybrid cloud data and analytics consulting services.

Notably, IBM also announced the spin-off of the Managed Infrastructure Services unit of its Global Technology Services division into a new public company called Kyndryl.

2021 Key Words in IT

Apart from all the words associated with the virus and lockdown, I’ve noticed some words associated with IT gaining more currency, including:

  • AIOps: Originally Algorithmic IT Operations, although sometimes thought of as artificial intelligence for IT operations—refers to software that uses machine learning to help IT teams evaluate and act faster and more accurately.
  • Ansible: A popular open-source software operating as a provisioning, configuration management, and application-deployment tool enabling infrastructure as code.
  • Cloud Paks: AI-powered software that come with pre-integrated data, automation and security capabilities. Cloud Paks help create hybrid cloud platforms.
  • CSMA: An integrated approach to securing IT assets, regardless of their location. It redefines the perimeters of cybersecurity to include the identity of a person or a thing.
  • Secure Access Service Edge (SASE): The combination of wide area networking (WAN) and network security services, like Cloud Access Security Broker, Firewall as a Service, and Zero Trust, into a single, cloud-delivered service model.
  • Site Reliability Engineer (SRE): A job role where a person will spend half their time on developing new features, scaling and automation. The other half of their time will focus on operator-type tasks. They will fix problems as they occur and identify the problem’s root cause and create an action plan to address them—ensuring, as far as possible, that the incident doesn’t happen again. Often, this will result in more automation.

Looking Forward to 2022

After a year of lockdowns, hybrid working, and returns to the office, we thought we might be returning to more normal circumstances. However, the year closed with a new variant of COVID—Omicron (B1.1.529)—that has 32 mutations on the spike protein and 10 mutations on the receptor binding domain, making it able to enter human cells easily. Despite all that, the mainframe industry remains an exciting place to work. I confidently predict that 2022 will be an interesting year and that the mainframe will continue to offer outstanding security, performance and reliability, and stay at the heart of the world’s business-critical applications.