When you think of mainframes, you probably have a mental image of an old movie, with punched cards and a computer that takes up a whole big room. But the mainframe still lives and is a viable product at IBM. Today it’s much sleeker and more powerful, running data-intensive workloads for the world’s biggest industries, with use cases that may not be quite ready. for the cloud.
Today IBM unveiled the latest mainframe in its storied history, the z16. It runs on the IBM Telum processor, which the company launched last summer. The chip has been optimized to run massive workloads, processing 300 billion high-value financial transactions per day with just a millisecond of latency, according to the company.
It’s for customers who have a serious need for speed with high volume. The primary use case the company is selling for this monster machine is real-time fraud prevention. Financial institutions in particular are the target customers, but Ric Lewis, SVP for IBM Systems, says it’s for just about any company processing a large number of business-critical transactions.
“It’s always banking, insurance, public sector, government, healthcare, retail – anywhere you really have high transaction throughput, where you need security, reliability and the best transaction processing in the world,” said Lewis.
That boils down to the largest companies in the world, including two-thirds of the Fortune 100, 45 of the top 50 global banks, eight of the top 10 insurers, seven of the top 10 global retailers and eight of the top 10 telecom operators. , which use mainframes, according to data provided by IBM. Most of these machines come from IBM.
“What’s cool about this latest announcement is that we’ve now integrated AI inference specifically optimized for real-time fraud detection inside the chip,” he said. . The difference here is that there is usually a lag between the detection of the fraud and the moment the consumer becomes aware of it. IBM wants to change that with the z16. “Now this set of clients can access the data [that fraud could be occurring] in real time inside the chip. Everything is enabled by our own VLSI chip called Telum which we announced last time [year]but it will be the first system delivered with this chip.
Lewis says that while the cloud has been great for the industry, he thinks there’s a whole category of businesses and applications for which the cloud just isn’t a viable option, and for a certain percentage of them, a powerful mainframe like the z16 might be the answer.
“There was a time when people said everything would end up in the cloud, and I think what you’re seeing more recently is that people believe data is everywhere. Not everything will be in the cloud. And really, the evolution of the whole IT landscape is more towards specialized infrastructure,” he said.
And of course, according to Lewis, that involves specialized hardware like his company’s z16. The company’s mainframe sales are down 6% since its last earnings report, but customers may have waited for the tech refresh that accompanies that announcement before buying additional units.
The company said the z16 will be available to all customers on May 31, and this could be a test of Lewis’ vision that some workloads will remain in a private data center running on mainframes for some time to come. .