IBM’s z13: Powering New and Next Gen Mobile Transactions

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  January 14, 2015

IBM announced the new IBM z13, which it described as the most sophisticated computer system ever built, delivering scale and economics together with real-time encryption and analytics to meet the safety and performance expectations of businesses and consumers in the mobile economy.

The z13 system culminates a $1 billion investment by IBM over five years of development that resulted in over 500 new patents. The z13 solution was developed in collaboration with over 60 IBM enterprise clients – underscoring the company’s singular commitment to providing higher-value, innovative technologies to its customers.

The z13 will feature the world’s fastest microprocessor – 2X faster than the most common server processors – as well as three times more memory, over 100% more bandwidth and vector processing analytics to speed mobile transactions. As a result, the z13 transaction engine will be capable of analyzing transactions in “real time” and able to detect fraud before consumers are impacted.

In addition to assistance with fraud prevention, businesses looking to enhance their customer loyalty programs will be able to use new z13 capabilities to add more personalization by gaining a real-time view of a client’s purchasing habits to offer up-sell and cross-sell promotions before they leave the store — and in some cases before they even enter.

The new mainframe also includes new support for Hadoop, enabling unstructured data to be analyzed in the system. Other analytics advances include query acceleration for Linux clients by adding DB2 with BLU Acceleration for Linux on z Systems providing an in-memory database, enhancements to the IBM DB2 analytics accelerator for z/OS, and vastly improved performance for mathematically intense analytics workloads.

As part of today’s announcement, IBM will also unveil a preview of new z/OS software that delivers advanced analytic and data serving capabilities. This new operating system expands the ability of z13 to process in-memory analytics and provide analysis on mobile transactions, helping clients to further extend mainframe enterprise applications to the mobile user. IBM noted that the launch complements its ongoing investments to help clients drive mobile innovation across the enterprise and embrace mobile technologies from the ground up.

The Pitch

IBM’s new z13 mainframe meets the performance and security demands of modern mobile commerce.

Final Analysis

The concepts and practices of business transactions have been common for half a millennium but digital technologies are adding new, often subtle changes to transaction processes that have allowed modern organizations to keep abreast of fundamental, even radical shifts in business and markets.

For example, transaction systems, including IBM’s signature mainframes, originally allowed banks and other financial institutions to replace largely manual processes with digitized solutions that were orders of magnitude faster and more efficient. Then, as the Internet began enabling ecommerce and related practices, vendors, including IBM, followed with online transaction processing (OLTP) solutions based on its systems and related database technologies.

Today, IBM’s z Systems mainframes are the transaction solutions of choice for the vast majority of the world’s banks, financial organizations, credit card companies and high volume sales operations, including major retailers and airline ticketing agencies. Why does a system architecture that’s over half a century old continue to lead in these areas? Because IBM continues to deliver levels of system performance, reliability and security that meet the distinct requirements of the world’s most demanding businesses.

Which brings us to the new IBM z13 mainframe. It’s pretty clear that mobile technologies are supplementing and even replacing some existing forms of online commerce, freeing customers and businesses to pursue entirely new kinds of behavior. However, as emerging mobile payment technologies like Google Wallet and Apple Pay come more to the fore, businesses will have to stretch to support those new processes in order to meet their own computing requirements and customers’ expectations.

Why is that the case? First, in order for mobile transactions to fully succeed, they will have to work more seamlessly and securely than traditional processes. If they fail to do so, consumers will simply dip into their wallets and use the same old cash and credit cards that they always have. In addition, consider the fact that retail transactions typically trigger a flood of associated events across a business’s and its partners’ IT systems.

This is often called a “starburst effect” due to the digital fireworks it incites. For example, making a retail purchase can trigger bank-to-bank reconciliations, credit checks, comparisons to past purchases, encryption/decryption, and customer loyalty alerts, discounts and point accumulations. Mix mobility in and the process can be further complicated with geo-location, up-sell (in-store) and cross-sell (partner sales) promotional data, along with analytics processes of various kinds.

IBM estimates that a single, typical transaction can trigger from four to as many as 100 additional “star burst” system interactions, meaning that, at least from a transaction processing perspective, an average store’s daily computing requirements resemble an ongoing Fourth of July finale. Step that up to a large scale, global retailer and the show goes on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The difficult trick for IT vendors is to successfully and securely enable all those processes while ensuring that no one gets burned.

IBM’s new z13 addresses these challenges in a number of ways. The company notes that the z13 is the first system capable of supporting 2.5 billion persistent, protected and auditable transactions in a single day – or 100X the 25 million online transactions completed on Cyber Monday 2012. In addition, the z13 doubles the speed of encryption capabilities, helping to ensure that mobile transactions are processed quickly and securely.

Finally, the z13 delivers new capabilities with its embedded analytics – that is, it supports analytics processes that occur within the primary system, rather than passing data back and forth between a secondary, specialized system. As a result, IBM’s z13 is optimized for analytics with particular aspects that can execute 17X faster than competitive solutions.  The z13 also hosts new capabilities, including real time fraud detection on up to 100% of business transactions.

Overall, IBM’s new z13 mainframe qualifies as a premium solution for today’s most exacting transaction requirements and provides a foundation for tomorrow’s vision of freewheeling mobile yet fully secure mobile commerce. Some competitors may grouse that the z13 is just the same old mainframe in a muscular new box. But that too easily denigrates the success IBM has built by serving thousands of demanding z Systems customers.

Instead, the IBM z13 suggests that the mainframe architecture is set to enable a new sort of Independence Day for the mobile economy. Both IBM’s transaction processing customers and their consumer clients should enjoy the upcoming fireworks.

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