Architecture & DesignWhat is IBM Z?

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IBM Z Mainframe

You may or may not have heard of IBM Z and the family of z/Architecture mainframe computers. The technology is not new, however, it has had a lasting effect on emerging technologies, including cloud computing and cloud development. It is – at least in part – responsible for the birth of modern cloud and cloud servers. We will take a look at this family of mainframes and learn a little bit about the different types and editions of IBM Z computers in today’s developer article.

IBM Z and Mainframe Computing

IBM Z is not related directly to IBM cloud services and is not an explicit type of cloud computing. In fact, it is a special type of family series of infrastructure and mainframe computer architecture. It began with the zSeries 900 enterprise in 2000 and is currently in its newest edition, which is known as IBM z15. Slightly older version exist also, including the z14 and z13 editions.

The mainframe computer – which is sometimes also called Big Iron – is a large type of server or computer used for complex, precise, and sensitive applications and data. Used by enterprises and organizations, it is mostly used for storing big data such as censuses, medical or national records, industry and consumer statistics, and so on. The mainframe is not as large as the supercomputer, but still larger and faster in functions, real physical memory, and processing capabilities than a usual server. It is used as a special server, and it’s currently used for special cloud computing infrastructures.

Read: Introduction to IBM Cloud Computing.

IBM Z Editions

IBM Z is one of the early IBM products, getting its start roughly in the year 2000. Continually evolving, it’s become one of the variables shaping information technology around the world in the 21st century.

The main IBM Z editions include the following:

  • IBM z15: Based on the z15 chip introduced in Sep 2019.
  • IBM z14: Launched in July 2017, based on a 10-core processor running at 5.2 GHz.
  • IBM z13: Launched in 2015 for Enterprise.
  • zEnterprise System: Announced in July 2010 with the z196 model.
  • zEnterprise BC12: Introduced in July 2013 based on an upscaled z114 up to 489 GB RAM.
  • System z10 EC: Launched in 2008 in two editions for Enterprise and Business.
  • zSeries 890/990: Launched in 2003/2004 in two editions for Enterprise and Business.
  • zSeries 800/900: Launched in 2000/2002 in two editions for Enterprise and Business.

IBM Z Features

IBM Z Mainframes have a lot of advanced features. Many of those features are beyond the scope of this article; instead of listing all of them, we will highlight a few of the most important IBM Z features that are relevant to developers and development teams. They include:

  • Performance and Storage: IBM Z is designed for the legend of performance and reliability of 99.9999%. The Z name is derived from the zero downtime principle. Some IBM Z editions are also supporting external liquid cooling for better CPU cooling and performance. Furthermore, it has an enterprise workloads architecture using IBM’s own S/390x chip, and it collects data in near real-time with zIIP-eligible processing.

    IBM Z uses Address Space to make a map of storage that enables users and applications to have their own individual address space and to access a range of up to 16 exabytes map. This facilitates storing and restoring the data in and from anywhere super quick.

  • Virtualization: It’s considered the backbone of IBM Z systems, and it’s deployed in multiple layers. Firstly, from Processor Resource and System Manager (PR/SM) to create many Logical Partitions alongside a powerful hypervisor called z/VM. It runs directly on top of the infrastructure in what is known as hypervisor type 1.

    The hypervisor type 1 shortens the need for a basic OS layer and empowers deploying up to 80 virtual machines. It’s deployed as primary virtual machines (VMs) “bare metal” servers that also have dedicated CPU and other resources. And also you can deploy as much as your needs of sub virtual machines in the second layer. This virtualization model allows for more dynamic scaling of computing resources as needed.

  • Privacy and Security: IBM Z is well-known as one of the built-in secure machines in the world since it has an integrated security model built into its hardware and operating system. With a high level of cyber resiliency capabilities delivered through hybrid cloud hardware and networking, it allows achieving flexible, responsive, and zero risks for cloud and computing and complex migration challenges.
  • Encryption: IBM Z has dedicated encryption processors over the complete ecosystem. It has the most secure hardware security module (HSM) for generating and handling the best encryption keys in the encryption industry. Which also increases its security.
  • Operating Systems: Most modern IBM Z supports multiple options of high-end server operating systems like z/OS, z/VM, z/VSE, and z/TPF. And for some other powerful Linux on IBM Z, such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11. In addition to Microsoft Windows Server 2008 support via x86 processor-based blades.

What is the IBM z15?

IBM z15 is the most recent and powerful mainframe in the Z family. Here we are talking about a real legend of IBM hardware products. With not less than 190 processors, 40TB of RAM, and 60 PCIe control units across 12 PCIe I/O drawers, we can say that IBM z15 is the world champion in mainframe competitions. Not to mention also that it includes up to 22 dedicated I/O offload processors (SAPs) pre-allocated per system, which give you up to 85 LPARs per system for Enterprise workloads.

Used by more than 44 of the top 50 banks and first top 10 insurers worldwide, it seems obvious IBM Z is the best mainframe in the world. Even many government, healthcare, airline, and retail organizations, and other companies are using IBM Z. The IBM Z’s highest standards for performance make it well deserve this trust.

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