IBM Japan announces new “IBM z16” mainframe product – Supports real-time AI inference and quantum cryptography ZDNet Japan

IBM Japan announced the new mainframe product “IBM z16” on April 6. It includes the adoption of an “IBM Telum” processor equipped with an artificial intelligence (AI) inference accelerator and the industry’s first “quantum-resistant cryptosystem”. In Japan, shipping is expected to begin on May 31.

At a press conference, Miho Miura, the company’s Senior Managing Executive Officer and General Manager of Technology Business Headquarters, said the issues recognized by many Japanese executives are “growing the business and improving enterprise value” and “promote DX (digital transformation)”. He mentioned three points: “co-creation and development of digital human resources” and “contribution to society through sustainable management” In response to these management challenges, the company has displayed a four-point support strategy for client companies: “AI and automation”, “modernization of businesses and infrastructures”, “advanced security” and “implementation of the sustainability of the rice field”.

Recently, modern cloud-based applications, called “DX applications”, are gaining importance. In this regard, Miura pointed out that “the data stored in the system that supports the main business must also be linked to the new user interface and the system to achieve usability”. He said there was a need to balance the “reliability, security and safety” required for core systems with the “speed” required for DX applications to respond quickly to customer needs. However, we will continue to support our customers by grasping “modernization infrastructure” from the perspective of how we can break it down into infrastructure that supports it all. “

In response to the market trend towards cloud computing, IBM does not believe that “mainframes are legacy and all going to the cloud”, as they say in the world these days, and the overall technology architecture is at the study. one of the important elements to sustain it” (M. Miura).

IBM z16 chassis

IBM z16 chassis

Next, Mr. Takuya Watanabe, General Manager of the technology company’s headquarters, gave an overview of the z16. The top three features were “AI inference and automation that accelerates decision-making”, “a secure system capable of responding to cyberattacks” and “promoting modernization through a hybrid approach”. It was also announced that a portal site called “IBM Z & Cloud Modernization Co-creation Center” will be opened on the same day as part of an initiative to translate content previously provided in English to Japanese and provide it in the Japanese market.

Watanabe said the company’s mainframe development is “always looking two generations ahead” and revealed that development of the “next-next” model has already begun. This seems to include the message that IBM will continue to supply mainframes in the future, while being aware that Fujitsu has announced that it will end mainframe sales in 2030.

A look at the company's last three generations of mainframes.  The development of the two generations (equivalent to the z17 and the z18) following the z16 is already underway.

A look at the company’s last three generations of mainframes. The development of the two generations (equivalent to the z17 and the z18) following the z16 is already underway.

A major feature of the z16 processor is that it has an integrated AI accelerator (AIU). The IBM z16 can perform AI inference processing in 1 millisecond and can process 300 billion AI inferences per day. For example, he pointed out that in the financial sector, it will be possible to analyze large-scale fraud during transactions, and it will be possible to “prevent” rather than “detect” fraudulent transactions such as credit cards. .

In the field of security, it is characterized by being equipped with technology resistant to quantum cryptography. In the background, Mr Watanabe quoted the phrase “data starts being stolen today (harvest now, decrypt later) in anticipation of future abuse” and argued that action should be taken from now on. . ..

Regarding RSA encryption, which is currently used as a mainstream encryption method, a “Shor’s algorithm” that decrypts at high speed using a quantum computer has been discovered. Since this algorithm requires twice as many qubits as the length of the encryption key to decrypt, for example, it is necessary to use a 4098-qubit quantum computer to decrypt the 2048-bit RSA cipher, which is not not yet at the practical stage.

However, he pointed out that instead of thinking it’s not a threat because it can’t be decrypted at this time, he should also assume the risk of an attacker stealing the data from advance and abuse them when they become decipherable. The quantum resistant cryptography currently under study is working on setting up an encryption algorithm that requires enough computation time even if it needs to be decrypted by a quantum computer in the future practical phase, and the cryptography technology quantum resistant of the z16. expects that future data security can be ensured using.

Kazumasa Kawaguchi, technical director of the technology company’s headquarters, explained the technical characteristics of the z16. The z16’s Telum processor is manufactured in a 7nm process. The operating speed is 5.2 GHz and it is equipped with 1.5 times more cache memory than the previous product, resulting in an 11% performance improvement per core. As mentioned above, the AIU is mounted on the CPU chip, and low-latency AI inference processing can be performed.

Main specifications and features of the z16 (1)

Main specifications and features of the z16 (1)

Main specifications and features of the z16 (2)

Main specifications and features of the z16 (2)

At the press conference, as Fujitsu’s policy to retire from the mainframe was clarified, the questions focused on the future of the technology and how to think about migrating to the cloud, but the basic idea is “Operating on the mainframe”. to invest the cost of migrating from the existing central system to the cloud? »

In other words, is it rational to invest development costs in order to build a new system on the cloud that performs basically the same processing as the currently running processing? Besides the initial cost of development, the appreciation of future profit and loss will divide depending on how to anticipate the difference in operating costs after that, but IBM understandably recognizes the advantages of the cloud but also the advantages of the mainframe. We can understand that the policy is to continue to innovate the mainframe in the sense of using it in combination while separating it if necessary.

There is no doubt that the mainframe as hardware is an expensive system, but on the contrary, there is no doubt that there are functions and performances that can only be realized by an expensive and large-scale system. Speaking of z16, for users who need high-speed AI inference processing by AIU, it can be estimated that introducing a mainframe is faster than thinking about how to achieve it with a combination of AI server and GPU. .

The mainframe market is unlikely to grow exponentially in the future, but it’s not going away any time soon. As vendors pull back, IBM, the market leader, is committed to pursuing mainframes, which is worth it in terms of market options, isn’t it.

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