IBM z15 release shines light on how much is still being run on a mainframe

Australia's biggest banks and government welfare delivery are some of the major use cases down under.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor
Image: IBM

IBM last week announced IBM z15, a new enterprise platform -- more commonly referred to as the mainframe -- that the company has touted as delivering the ability to manage the privacy of customer data across hybrid multi-cloud environments.

z15 is the 15th generation of the technology and has been around for more than half a century.

Philip MacLochlainn, a business unit executive of Systems Server at IBM, touched on the current penetration of the mainframe, with a focus on banking in Australia.

"Early use cases were people running businesses, but also one of the first customers was NASA who used it to land on the moon," he told ZDNet.

"Today it's used extensively, although people don't interact directly with it, they're probably less aware that they are using it than they are with Amazon [Web Services]."

See also: IBM z15: Multicloud makes the case for why mainframes still matter (TechRepublic)

A staggering amount of the world's commerce runs through IBM z.

"It's pretty startling. 85% of all credit cards, 29 billion ATM transactions per year, 92 of the top 100 banks ... 12 billion passenger flights are booked using IBM z each year, and if I trust Google and their count of the number of searches they do, we do 5x more transactions on mainframes -- our customers do -- than Google does searches each year," he said.

"It has a dramatic effect on people's lives ... essentially keeps the world running."

MacLochlainn said Australia's banking system is "pretty consistent" with the global statistic.

"Banking workloads are heavily transactional, data intense, and are massive in scale. Banks' clients rely on these systems being secure and continuously available -- the consequences of outages or data breaches are critically significant, both to the client and to the bank," he said.

There are four criteria MacLochlainn would say explains why IBM z continues to be a fit-for-purpose core banking platform, the first being continuous availability, noting that 83% of clients report near 100% availability.

See also: NAB looks at moving core banking to the public cloud

"IBM z is recognised as the most secure computing platform," he added as a second reason.

"IBM z is designed to support the heaviest and most data intensive workload, the system architecture has been refined over decades with this specific business use case in mind. The scale of the workloads involved would otherwise require significant numbers of distributed systems with significant uplifts in management complexity and cost."

The fourth, he said, is that it's a proven platform.

"References abound, as are failed projects deployed on alternative architectures," he said.

One of the big four banks have already contracted IBM for at least one z15.

According to MacLochlainn, the government department of every major economy that's responsible for collecting money and dispersing money also runs these core functions on mainframes.

See also: Department of Human Services is building a new private cloud

"A population of 25 million represents a lot of tax and social security records, so the scale of the data processing is massive," he said.

"Collection and disbursement of monies are critical government services and require continuous availability. Citizens rightly expect to be able to access the service 365 days a year; consequently, IBM z is absolutely fit for purpose."


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