C Level

New mainframe technologies that will make a difference to your business

Be honest: what do you really think of IT?  Most C-level execs think of it, at best, as a cost center to be minimized. Others go even further, thinking it arrogant, pushy, dictatorial, and worse. Those execs who are more generous, especially if they have experienced a good CIO, may regard IT as a business enabler; a rare few might grudgingly consider IT a worthwhile component of the company.

Since we’re being honest, only an exec who has suffered through a problem-plagued IT experience and has survived to recognize IT the way it should function, might concede IT is a critical component that the business should never be without. Just think what happens to your business when IT systems go down, even for an hour or two. Does much customer work get accomplished? Are your people productive?

Of course not. You can’t run a modern, competitive organization today without a competent, efficient IT group if you intend to stay in business for very long. By long we’re talking about a few days, a week at most.

Fortunately, that is increasingly unlikely to happen. Technology like that provided by IBM, which has been developing and commercializing advanced, intelligent systems, mostly prevents the worst things from happening.

Quantum Computing: It’s real, and it’s here now

Maybe the most exciting, but admittedly furthest out there developments, is IBM’s pioneering work with quantum computing. This is no longer in the realm of science fiction. Just last fall, IBM introduced rapid advances in quantum hardware as the company continues to drive progress across the entire quantum computing technology stack, with a focus on systems, software, applications, and enablement.

Using IBM’s QISKit toolset, your technical people could create quantum computing programs and execute them on one of IBM’s real quantum processors available online. Quantum computing will enable companies like yours to analyze complex problems such as chemical simulations, find new ways to isolate and even remediate financial risk, or design ultra-efficient logistics and global supply chains that today cannot be effectively modeled on even the most powerful supercomputers.

Watson to the rescue

Remember IBM’s Watson? In 2011, top former Jeopardy champions pitted their talents against Watson, a computer programmed to understand and speak natural human language (English). Watson won decisively. Today, Watson is using its natural language capabilities to cull through massive volumes of data in microseconds to do everything from helping doctors make complex medical diagnoses to delivering unbeatable customer service to hotel guests.

Any business can tap IBM’s Watson capabilities in the cloud. You don’t have to invest in a supercomputer or gather massive amounts of data, or write analytical programs. Just ask Watson in plain English and it will quickly answer you. In fact, you can go to Watson right now in the IBM Cloud and create your own bot (automated robot) in the form of a virtual agent to handle customer service. It’s so easy that executives can do it themselves, leaving the programmers and geeks at home. Why should they have all the fun?

You expect exciting advances from new technologies like Quantum Computing and Watson, but what about the mainframe, a 50-year-old technology? When was the last time a C-level executive ever got excited by a mainframe? This is the technology that has spent decades keeping the transaction processing lights on and it continues to handle the bulk of daily financial transactions every day.

Eliminate compliance headaches with the Z mainframe

The latest mainframe, the z14 or, as IBM now calls it, the Z, can change your business overnight, starting with the elimination of compliance headaches and security threats. Have you lost any sleep worrying about hackers breaking into your systems and corrupting or compromising your data? Or maybe you’re concerned with the cost of a data breach. The new Z makes that a thing of the past.

The new Z comes with pervasive encryption. It automatically encrypts all your data from the moment it’s created and keeps it encrypted throughout the life of the data. Although encryption is widely accepted as the best way to keep data safe, only a small percentage, a mere 4% of the 9 billion records breached since 2013, were encrypted. With the Z and automatic pervasive encryption, IBM could change that from 4% to 100%. Now you can sleep better, confident that you won’t wake up facing the nightmare of a costly massive data breach like the execs at Equifax did just a few months ago.

Encryption of everything automatically

The Z changes everything from this point going forward. IBM has committed a 4x increase in silicon dedicated just to cryptographic algorithms for pervasive encryption. The Z encrypts all data associated with an entire application, cloud service and database—automatically. This amounts to bulk encryption at cloud scale made possible by a massive 7x increase in cryptographic performance over even previous mainframes. This is 18x faster than comparable PC-based x86 systems.

It also ends the costly compliance fire drill your staff goes through before every auditor visit. You know, where everyone drops their customer work and scrambles to make sure the data and systems are secure. Manual encryption entails classifying all your data to determine which data must really be encrypted since the time and effort required prevents most organizations from encrypting everything. Encryption also consumes system resources, another reason to limit it only to absolutely essential data at risk.

Unfortunately, you don’t know now what data is at the greatest risk or represents the biggest value should it be compromised. The Z eliminates all of this. You just get encryption of everything automatically. It’s baked into the silicon so you don’t even pay extra for it. It also doesn’t impact service levels. You never notice it.

Enhanced security with the new mainframe

When it comes to security, the Z truly is a game changer. And it finally will get compliance auditors off your organization’s case once they realize how extensive and bullet-proof Z protection is. The bottom line: no additional cost, no work, no impact on your running workloads, and no worries about your data being compromised, stolen, or hacked. With the Z’s pervasive encryption if someone calls with a ransomware demand you just ignore them. Any data they think they may hold captive is worthless to them; it already has been encrypted and key protected beyond reach.

Blockchain on the mainframe

One of the most attractive concepts introduced in the last five years by the FinTech revolution is blockchain, the distributed ledger / database / whatever technology. Surprisingly to some, the Z mainframe appears ideally suited for blockchain due to its security, scalability, performance, and flexibility—the same mainframe capabilities organizations have relied on for years.

For example, in the food segment, IBM’s blockchain platform connects growers, suppliers, processors, distributors, retailers, and regulators by allowing permissioned access to information regarding the origin and state of a particular food item at any point in the path from grower to consumer. Just think, you’ll prevent stomach aches and avoid the risk of corporate litigation.

New transformational technologies for business

Today’s executives should be aware of any budding transformational technologies like quantum computing, newly introduced and effective technologies like blockchain, and dramatic improvements to existing technologies like the z14 mainframe. Technological leadership can now really make a difference to business operations, especially in the arena of guarding against cyberthreats that are growing and diversifying at an alarming rate. With these transformational technologies your organization can develop strategic business initiatives that will ensure a competitive advantage and increased market share and profitability.

Originall Published in Direction IT: Issue 7

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst, writer, and ghostwriter. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

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