Product Spotlight E02: IBM z16

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Over the past months, we at Greyhound Research have received a ton of requests from our end-user clients to offer more product deep-dives. Essentially, share insights that go beyond the usual 30,000 feet conversations and focus on products/suites that IT teams are currently exploring or using. In other words, insights sans management jargon and marketing hype. Hence we decided to launch Product Spotlight, a dialogue series wherein we host the real brains who are architecting products.

In this 2nd exchange (E2) of Product Spotlight, we host Tina Tarquinio, Director, IBM Systems Product Management. In her current role, Tina is responsible for the multi-billion dollar IBM Z portfolio, while at the same time driving the end-to-end creation and execution for future generations of IBM Z. Over the last several years Tina has led major innovations in the IBM Z product line, including all-new system frame design, the introduction of usage-based hardware pricing and supporting the IBM Public Clouds IBM Z based services.

P.S.: As the name states, this dialogue series is focused on a product/suite on which our analysts receive enquiry calls from end-user clients. We host the Product Managers and quiz them on features, roadmap, and more.

Greyhound Research: Firstly, thanks for speaking with Greyhound Research. We truly appreciate you taking the time. To get started, let’s lay some background. The market dynamics have changed dramatically over the past 24 months, and moving towards a digital business model is no longer a matter of choice. The technology buyers are now asking vendors to deliver faster and land tangible outcomes. Amid all this change, where do you find the mainframe conversation headed? Has it impacted customer expectations regarding what they expect their mainframe to do and the release cycles, among other things? 

IBM: Over the last two years, our clients have depended on critical mainframe infrastructure to handle unpredictable events and scale for unexpected peaks while acting as a secure key element of their hybrid cloud. We leverage continuous delivery across the stack from hardware through application level, around new features and deployment capabilities – this allows us to respond quickly to a client’s need or business opportunity.

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Greyhound Research: One often hears about how the mainframe is dead; of course, that observation is ill-informed. Can you please share how you ensure the mainframe’s broader relevance beyond existing customers in terms of user personas and enterprise types? Some concrete examples of how you are landing on this ask will help elucidate.

IBM: Through Design Thinking, we continue to broaden our impact and research through different personas – on IBM z16, we had 70+ companies, through 23 different user personas, engage with us from concept through to delivery. We continue to broaden where the Red Hat OpenShift Platform can provide client value and unlock new partnerships for our clients.

Through IBM LinuxONE, we have added several new clients to the platform, with strong traction in our Digital Assets offerings.

Greyhound Research: One of the criticisms many industry observers like us have always had is the lack of efforts to democratize the IBM zSystems DevOps portfolio. The fact is that the bigger the pool of developers with the ability and the know-how to work on IBM zSystems, the more it will become relevant for newer use-cases, industries, and buyers. Can you please give a perspective on what is being done on this account?

IBM: We have expanded, with two new offerings announced this year in this space. 

We announced IBM Wazi as-a-Service in February of this year [2022] in the IBM Cloud to allow developers to spin up an IBM z/OS development environment in minutes. Additionally, we announced the IBM Z Cloud and Modernization Stack (announced in January, here). In addition to our existing portfolio, these tools create a cloud-native experience for developers and system programmers within IBM z/OS.

Greyhound Research: This conversation about IBM z16 is incomplete if we don’t discuss the processor. Can you please share some key highlights regarding the number of cores, processor capacity, and critical performance improvements with IBM z16? 

IBM: IBM z16 is powered by the IBM Telum Processor, with an industry-first, on-chip accelerator for inferencing and an entirely new cache design. Two processors are housed together in a Dual Chip Module to maximize efficiency and performance.

Every IBM z16 can have up to 200 cores, 40 TB of memory, and contains 1.5x the growth in cache over the previous generation. Notably, the single-thread performance also grows by 11%.

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Greyhound Research: Given the existing supply chain issues and the limited availability of silicon, what kind of timelines can customers expect to deliver IBM z16? Are there delays you expect or all that has already been factored in, and the customers need not worry? 

IBM: The last two years have seen unprecedented impacts on the global supply chain. Despite that, IBM has a world-class supply chain team who continues to support shipments of mainframes – in fact, for IBM z15, we shipped more MIPS than any prior program.

Regarding IBM z16, we have been preparing for many months within this dynamic environment. As of General Availability on May 31 – we have begun to ship systems from our manufacturing site in Poughkeepsie, NY, USA. 

Greyhound Research: Customers who depend on IBM zSystems for their critical workloads are also investing aggressively in moving workloads to a hybrid cloud environment to launch digital services. Can you please share the readiness of IBM z16 to integrate with these workloads? And what are some of these workloads where you are witnessing the most integration? More importantly, how are you enabling the developers to modernize existing workloads as you enable integration? 

IBM: Clients are driving the most integration where there is a high affinity to data gravity. Due to the complexities and risk of moving and managing data from IBM zSystems, clients are seeing the most benefit in bringing the applications to the data. An example of this would be a Java-based web application highly dependent on Db2 data on z/OS.

IBM z16 can integrate through bi-directional APIs, secure network connectivity, direct data connectivity (data virtualization, event streams, change data capture, etc.), OpenShift integration of both Linux and z/OS workloads, and intra-system co-location patterns.

No level of integration and function can scale or deliver innovation at scale without a rich ecosystem of tooling and leading technologies to empower developers to continuously modernize applications running on IBM zSystems. Across both Linux on IBM zSystems and z/OS, modern programming languages like Java, node.js, Golang, Python, and more are fully supported to provide the most contemporary and expected experience for developers.

Open-source container technologies and Kubernetes orchestration are pervasive across IBM zSystems, allowing for flexibility, choice, and consistency in the developer experience.

Then – foundational to the developer experience – there is full support for DevSecOps for complete consistency across the enterprise and developer ecosystem, ensuring the full lifecycle is inclusive of IBM zSystems.

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Greyhound Research: If there is one pain point that keeps customers away from Public Cloud, that is unplanned outages and the compliance impact thereafter. How does IBM z16 help customers be better prepared for such outages? Also, what level of automation has been allowed to ensure the movement of workloads and the ability to reduce the person-hours required to gather data for ongoing audits? 

IBM: IBM zSystems boast a remarkable seven 9s of availability – that is, just three seconds of downtime a year.

With IBM z16, we are introducing Flexible Capacity for Cyber Resiliency, a client-initiated site swap that can stay swapped for up to one year.

This ability is increasingly important for our clients to proactively avoid outages and demonstrate compliance in highly regulated industries, like the Financial Services sector. As regulations expand and become more complex, so do the audits to enforce them, which scales the amount of time and people needed to prepare for them.

In addition, IBM Z Security and Compliance center was announced with IBM z16, aiming to keep our clients in a continuous compliance posture. From our sponsor users, we saw up to a 40% reduction in the number of people to prepare an audit and up to a 55% reduction in the time to prepare. 

Greyhound Research: The marketing material for IBM z16 proudly talks about it being the industry’s first quantum-safe system and using quantum-safe cryptography. Can you please translate that to more straightforward terms and how it truly benefits customers? Also, does it apply to traditional and modern workloads equally? 

IBM: First, the system itself: IBM z16 is the industry’s first quantum-safe system. This means that the firmware and secure boot process are protected from quantum attacks out-of-the-box.

Secondly, IBM z16 has new quantum-safe cryptography so clients can start preparing for the time when quantum computers are powerful enough to break today’s cryptography. Our clients have data from their consumers that they need to protect now and in the future, given how long they must hold on to sensitive data.

By using the quantum-safe algorithms now, alongside today’s classical cryptography, our clients and their consumers will be able to stay ahead of the bad actors who are harvesting data now to decrypt later. 

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Greyhound Research: In the question above, you highlighted some of the significant technological advancements made to the processor. Can you please share how all of this allows customers to better leverage AI? For example, most IBM z16 customers have more data than a typical organization. Given the high need to be compliant, how does the new processor enable the use of AI and improve response times, among other benefits? 

IBM: Every IBM Telum Processor has an on-chip AI accelerator for inferencing. We have invested just as much into the ecosystem so our clients can build and train their models anywhere and deploy quickly on IBM zSystems.

The accelerator is so powerful you can perform inference in every transaction and not impact SLAs, reaching up to 300b inference actions daily at less than 1ms latency.

We are working with clients on various use cases, such as fraud detection in several industries, clearing and settlement, loan approval and medical image processing, and more. For example, with IBM z16 and the on-chip AI accelerator, clients can go from scoring only 10% of their transactions for fraud to scoring 100% of transactions, saving over $100M per year.

Greyhound Research: Lastly, please share your view on the growth of the mainframe and how you see it evolving in the near future.

IBM: We continue to see clients invest in their hybrid cloud with IBM zSystems – leveraging the security, reliability, and scalability that IBM zSystems bring to the table. With IBM z16, we are excited about what the new AI accelerator and quantum-safe encryption can do for our clients now and in the future.

Over the last 11 years, the installed capacity for IBM zSystems has grown 3.5x – in both traditional IBM z/OS workloads and Linux- and Java-based workloads.

Greyhound Research: Thanks again for your time. This has truly been a wonderful conversation.

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