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IBM z15 mainframe secures data across multi-cloud environments

IBM today premiered the latest member of its mainframe lineup, containing improved security software that builds on its existing Pervasive Encryption offering, improved methods of building cloud-native applications and added processing power that can support 2.4 million Linux containers on a single system.

The IBM z15 mainframe features the newly minted Data Privacy Passports technology, which provides IT mainframe administrators with more control over how data is stored and shared. It also offers the ability to provision data and revoke access to that data across hybrid multi-cloud environments, no matter where that data travels.

Addressing the issue of data increasingly either constantly moving around or residing in siloed environments, IBM introduced Trusted Data Objects (TDO) features designed to provide data-centric protection by staying attached to the data whenever it travels from point to point. The offering builds on the Pervasive Encryption technology that came bundled with the z14 mainframe over two years ago.

Middleware that controls and travels with data

It is this constant movement of data circulating among a user’s business partners and other third parties that causes a majority of the recent data breaches, along with the growing adoption of multi-cloud environments, IBM said.

With Data Privacy Passports, users can enforce a companywide data privacy policy capable of surfacing different views of data to different sets of users on a need-to-know basis. The TDO technology can also be used to prevent collusion among data owners, which could lead to critical data falling into the hands of hackers.

“Think of it [Data Privacy Passports and TDO] as middleware that controls and travels with the data,” said Ross Mauri, general manager of IBM Z. “Our clients might need to access data and analytic insights not in minutes, but maybe in a fraction of a second, along with the ability to control the privacy of that data at a very granular level.”

Most analysts believe IBM is taking a step in the right direction by offering added protection for increasingly complicated cloud-based environments.

“A week doesn’t go by when there’s yet another security disaster exposing the data of millions of people,” said Charles King, president and principal analyst at Pund-IT. “Data Privacy Passport appears to be a way to extend the security [of the z14’s Pervasive Encryption scheme] to sensitive information like intellectual property or data subject to compliance protocols and regulations.”

Reinforcing loyalty

Is it a quantum leap ahead of the z14? No. But the message should resonate with C-level executives. It assures them they are still investing in the system.
Mike ChubaManaging vice president, Infrastructure and Operations group, Gartner

Another analyst agreed that enhancing IBM’s existing security technology is a good, if not necessary, thing to keep long-time mainframe users loyal to the platform — particularly in a time when there are alternative technologies offered by a number of cloud-based competitors.

“The mainframe has long been a platform where security and transactional integrity has been paramount,” said Mike Chuba, managing vice president in Gartner’s Infrastructure and Operations group. “With this announcement, they continue to innovate, but is it a quantum leap ahead of the z14? No. But the message should resonate with C-level executives. It assures them they are still investing in the system.”

Capable of carrying out 1 trillion web transactions a day, the IBM z15 mainframe performs 14% faster per core and offers 25% more system capacity than the z14, Mauri noted. The system also has 25% more memory, 20% more I/O connectivity and an availability of 99.999999%, the equivalent of three seconds of downtime per year, he added.

This combination of added raw processing power, increased reliability and the ability to handle millions of containers across multiple environments could help keep the mainframe relevant in the voraciously competitive hybrid cloud market, a key area of focus for the newly merged IBM and Red Hat.

Depending on the success the combined company has in delivering compelling cloud-based products and services over the next year, it could help stimulate mainframe sales and take shares away from the dominant share Intel-based servers have among large corporate data centers.

But Gartner’s Chuba is not optimistic that whatever success IBM-Red Hat has will result in many net-new zOS-based mainframe sales, that most of the z15’s potential success will be among users interested in Linux.

“Almost all of the new accounts over the past couple of years are users running Linux,” Chuba said. “They are not attracting many zOS users in any meaningful way. It is clearly an uphill battle to win more of those users.”

What could draw interest among both Linux and zOS-based mainframe users is Red Hat’s OpenShift, expected to be available on the new system by the end of this year. Given the improved speed and capacity of the IBM z15 mainframe, some analysts said it might serve as a showpiece for how well it can run OpenShift and other strategically important software in the hybrid cloud.

“[The z15] will be positioned as the performance platform to run the Red Hat software stack,” said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects Inc. “This system gives mainframe users a valid alternative to the Power series, which has grabbed a lot of attention lately because of its higher performance.”

IBM’s Sierra and Summit supercomputers, both powered by IBM’s Power 9 chip, are currently the first and third fastest supercomputers in the world.

Besides improving the z15’s chip speed, IBM has come up with a new compression technology that allows corporate users to get huge amounts of data on and off the mainframe. The new compression offering, called the Integrated Accelerator for z Enterprise Data Compression, delivers 30 times lower latency and up to 28 times less processor utilization by compressing web transaction data before it is encrypted.

“It’s not unusual for significant cost to be incurred as data is moved on and off mainframes,” Pund-IT’s King said. “If you can dramatically reduce the size of the files you are sending, you can take a big bite out of the time it takes to move those huge chunks of data from one place to another.”

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Samsung adds Z-NAND data center SSD

Samsung’s lineup of data center solid-state drives– including a Z-NAND model — introduced this week targets smaller organizations facing demanding workloads such as in-memory databases, artificial intelligence and IoT.

The fastest option in the Samsung data center SSD family — the 983 ZET NVMe-based PCIe add-in card — uses the company’s latency-lowering Z-NAND flash chips. Earlier this year, Samsung announced its first Z-NAND-based enterprise SSD, the SZ985, designed for the OEM market. The new 983 ZET SSD targets SMBs, including system builders and integrators, that buy storage drives through channel partners.

The Samsung data center SSD lineup also adds the first NVMe-based PCIe SSDs designed for channel sales in 2.5-inch U.2 and 22-mm-by-110-mm M.2 form factors. At the other end of the performance spectrum, the new entry-level 2.5-inch 860 DCT 6 Gbps SATA SSD targets customers who want an alternative to client SSDs for data center applications, according to Richard Leonarz, director of product marketing for Samsung SSDs.

Rounding out the Samsung data center SSD product family is a 2.5-inch 883 DCT SATA SSD that uses denser 3D NAND technology, which Samsung calls V-NAND, than comparable predecessor models. Samsung’s PM863 and PM863a SSDs use 32-layer and 48-layer V-NAND respectively, but the new 883 DCT SSD is equipped with triple-level cell (TLC) 64-layer V-NAND chips, as are the 860 DCT and 983 DCT models, Leonarz said.

Noticeably absent from the Samsung data center SSD product line is 12 Gbps SAS. Leonarz said research showed SAS SSDs trending flat to downward in terms of units sold. He said Samsung doesn’t see a growth opportunity for SAS on the channel side of the business that sells to SMBs such as system builders and integrators. Samsung will continue to sell dual-ported enterprise SAS SSDs to OEMs.

Samsung 983 ZET NVMe SSD
The Samsung 983 ZET NVMe SSD uses its latency-lowering Z-NAND flash chips.

Z-NAND-based SSD uses SLC flash

The Z-NAND technology in the new 983 ZET SSD uses high-performance single-level cell (SLC) V-NAND 3D flash technology and builds in logic to drive latency down to lower levels than standard NVMe-based PCIe SSDs that store two or three bits of data per cell.

Samsung positions the Z-NAND flash technology it unveiled at the 2016 Flash Memory Summit as a lower-cost, high-performance alternative to new 3D XPoint nonvolatile memory that Intel and Micron co-developed. Intel launched 3D XPoint-based SSDs under the brand name Optane in March 2017, and later added Optane dual inline memory modules (DIMMs). Toshiba last month disclosed its plans for XL-Flash to compete against Optane SSDs.

Use cases for Samsung’s Z-NAND NVMe-based PCIe SSDs include cache memory, database servers, real-time analytics, artificial intelligence and IoT applications that require high throughput and low latency.

“I don’t expect to see millions of customers out there buying this. It’s still going to be a niche type of solution,” Leonarz said.

Samsung claimed its SZ985 NVMe-based PCIe add-in card could reduce latency by 5.5 times over top NVMe-based PCIe SSDs. Product data sheets list the SZ985’s maximum performance at 750,000 IOPS for random reads and 170,000 IOPS for random writes, and data transfer rates of 3.2 gigabytes per second (GBps) for sequential reads and 3 GBps for sequential writes.

The new Z-NAND based 983 ZET NVMe-based PCIe add-in card is also capable of 750,000 IOPS for random reads, but the random write performance is lower at 75,000 IOPS. The data transfer rate for the 983 ZET is 3.4 GBps for sequential reads and 3 GBps for sequential writes. The 983 ZET’s latency for sequential reads and writes is 15 microseconds, according to Samsung.

Both the SZ985 and new 983 ZET are half-height, half-length PCIe Gen 3 add-in cards. Capacity options for the 983 ZET will be 960 GB and 480 GB when the SSD ships later this month. SZ985 SSDs are currently available at 800 GB and 240 GB, although a recent product data sheet indicates 1.6 TB and 3.2 TB options will be available at an undetermined future date.

Samsung’s SZ985 and 983 ZET SSDs offer significantly different endurance levels over the five-year warranty period. The SZ985 is rated at 30 drive writes per day (DWPD), whereas the new 983 ZET supports 10 DWPD with the 960 GB SSD and 8.5 DWPD with the 480 GB SSD.

Samsung data center SSD endurance

The rest of the new Samsung data center SSD lineup is rated at less than 1 DWPD. The entry-level SATA 860 DCT SATA SSD supports 0.20 DWPD for five years or 0.34 DWPD for three years. The 883 DCT SATA SSD and 983 DCT NVMe-based PCIe SSD are officially rated at 0.78 DWPD for five years, with a three-year option of 1.30 DWPD.

Samsung initially targeted content delivery networks with its 860 DCT SATA SSD, which is designed for read-intensive workloads. Sequential read/write performance is 550 megabytes per second (MBps) and 520 MBps, and random read/write performance is 98,000 IOPS and 19,000 IOPS, respectively, according to Samsung. Capacity options range from 960 GB to 3.84 TB.

“One of the biggest challenges we face whenever we talk to customers is that folks are using client drives and putting those into data center applications. That’s been our biggest headache for a while, in that the drives were not designed for it. The idea of the 860 DCT came from meeting with various customers who were looking at a low-cost SSD solution in the data center,” Leonarz said.

He said the 860 DCT SSDs provide consistent performance for round-the-clock operation with potentially thousands of users pinging the drives, unlike client SSDs that are meant for lighter use. The cost per GB for the 860 DCT is about 25 cents, according to Leonarz.

The 883 DCT SATA SSD is a step up, at about 30 cents per GB, with additional features such as power loss protection. The performance metrics are identical to the 860 DCT, with the exception of its higher random writes of 28,000 IOPS. The 883 DCT is better suited to mixed read/write workloads for applications in cloud data centers, file and web servers and streaming media, according to Samsung. Capacity options range from 240 GB to 3.84 TB.

The 983 DCT NVMe-PCIe SSD is geared for I/O-intensive workloads requiring low latency, such as database management systems, online transaction processing, data analytics and high performance computing applications. The 2.5-inch 983 DCT in the U.2 form factor is hot swappable, unlike the M.2 option. Capacity options are 960 GB and 1.92 TB for both form factors. Pricing for the 983 DCT is about 34 cents per GB, according to Samsung.

The 983 DCT’s sequential read performance is 3,000 MBps for each of the U.2 and M.2 983 DCT options. The sequential write performance is 1,900 MBps for the 1.92 TB U.2 SSD, 1,050 MBps for the 960 GB U.2 SSD, 1,400 MBps for the 1.92 TB M.2 SSD, and 1,100 MBps for the 960 GB M.2 SSD. Random read/write performance for the 1.92 TB U.2 SSD is 540,000 IOPS and 50,000 IOPS, respectively. The read/write latency is 85 microseconds and 80 microseconds, respectively.

The 860 DCT, 883 DCT and 983 DCT SSDs are available now through the channel, and the 983 ZET is due later this month.

Top Microsoft Gaming Moments of 2017

During E3 this year, we showed the biggest and most diverse Xbox games lineup ever. Many of those games are coming in 2018, and as gamers we cannot wait to share them with fans. Among Microsoft Studios exclusives games are new IP like Sea of Thieves (launching March 20), deep gameplay in fan-favorite franchises like State of Decay 2, and the explosive return of a celebrated franchise to Xbox with Crackdown 3 – all releasing on Xbox One and PC. That’s in addition to all the great [email protected] and cross-platform games (more on that below), and as well as other unannounced surprises to come.

As we prepare to step into the new year, it’s a great time to reflect on our favorite gaming moments of 2017 on Xbox and PC. We released the world’s most powerful console Xbox One X with the largest games lineup in Xbox history, including more than 1,300 titles and over 220 exclusives. Among those were incredible 2017 releases from Microsoft Studios, third party publishers and innovative independent developers, with over 85 specifically enhanced to take advantage of the power of Xbox One X. We also offered new ways for gamers to access content, interact with spectators and participate in the game development process.

Phil Spencer at E3

The excitement capped recently with The Game Awards, where Forza Motorsport 7 took home Best Sports/Racing Game, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds won Best Multiplayer Game, and Cuphead snagged three awards, including Best Independent Game.

Join us as we look back at our top 10 games moments of 2017.

  1. The World’s Most Powerful Console Launches

Reception to Xbox One X has been incredible and we’re so grateful for our fans. One of the things we’ve enjoyed most is seeing how developers are taking advantage of the world’s most powerful console, with 4K Ultra HD, HDR, Dolby Atmos and other exciting features and improvements. Xbox One X truly is the best place to experience games with many enhanced games available and more adding support as we move into 2018.

  1. The Biggest PC Game of 2017 Comes Exclusively to Console on Xbox One

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds took the gaming world by storm in 2017. Over 25 million players experienced PUBG on PC and console fans got a shot at winning their own chicken dinners with its exclusive release on Xbox One as part of the Xbox Game Preview program last week. The reception from Xbox fans has been phenomenal with over one million copies sold in the first 48 hours alone. Through the Xbox Game Preview program, fans get to be a part of the development process, and PUBG on Xbox One will continually receive content updates including the new desert map, Miramar, optimizations, and more exciting stuff in the months ahead.

  1. Xbox Game Pass Opens up a New Way to Play

Launching Xbox Game Pass was a big moment for Xbox this year. Giving fans more options to diversify and expand their library of games, as well as discover new experiences has been important to us, which is what we set out to achieve with Xbox Game Pass. We have been excited by the amazing fan reaction and engagement with Xbox Game Pass, which gives unlimited access to over 100 great games on Xbox One.

  1. Xbox is the Best Place to Play Multi-Platform Games

This past year, we worked with fantastic publishers and developers across the industry to make Xbox the best place to play their games. Players responded by playing more than 1,870 third-party games for over 12 billion hours. The Xbox community demonstrated how Xbox Live is the fastest and most reliable gaming network by logging in more than 3.7 billion hours in multiplayer across games from our partners. This has inspired our partners to enhance over 80 Xbox One X games with any combination of benefits like faster loading times, higher resolution textures, HDR support or steadier framerates. We’re looking forward to a great 2018 full of new games and even more Enhanced games with our players and partners.

Xbox One X Launch

  1. Forza Motorsport 7 Sets a New Bar

Throughout the years, Turn 10 Studios has worked hard to push the award-winning Forza franchise to new heights, and the pinnacle (so far) was this year’s Forza Motorsport 7 – a game built from the ground up to showcase native 4K gaming at 60 frames per second on Xbox One X. It was an honor bringing the community the most comprehensive, beautiful and authentic racing game ever made. In September alone, more than 7.9 million unique players raced in the Forza community. Next up is the Xbox One X Enhanced version of Forza Horizon 3 coming January 15, and we’ll have more exciting news in the months to come.

  1. Original Xbox Games Join Backward Compatibility Collection

One of the big highlights this year was bringing Original Xbox classics into the Xbox One Backward Compatibility program. Compatibility is important to Xbox, to developers and their games, and our community. In 2017, we added 136 Xbox 360, 13 Original Xbox and seven enhanced Xbox 360 titles, which helped contribute to the more than 400 titles available today and 740 million hours of Backward Compatible games played to-date.

  1. Independent Developers Drive Innovation

Every year, we look back at all the great games released by independent developers around the world, and 2017 was a banner year for great independent games. First off, we launched the Xbox Live Creators Program in August and it’s already flourishing with more than 100 games playable on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs today. And [email protected] continues to be the home for creativity, innovation, and just plain rad games. From console exclusive Cuphead to Thimbleweed Park, What Remains of Edith Finch to Aer, or Fortnite to Tacoma, and favorites like Ark, Smite, Warframe and Rocket League [email protected] has fast become a super relevant way for independent developers to bring their creations to the Xbox One and Windows 10 community. With Deep Rock Galactic, Battlerite, The Darwin Project, Black Desert, Full Metal Furies, Robocraft, Below and hundreds of others in the pipeline for 2018, 2017 may get a run for its money!

  1. Minecraft Becomes First Game Ever to Unify Players on PC, Mobile, and Console

2017 was a year focused on breaking down barriers for Minecraft. With the release of cross-device multiplayer in the Better Together Update, Mojang and the Minecraft team brought tens of millions of Minecraft players together on the game they love where they want, when they want and on the device they want. In 2018, Minecraft players can look forward to cross-device multiplayer on Nintendo Switch, a whole new world of under-the-sea adventures with the Update Aquatic, a spiffy new graphics engine powering the Super Duper Graphics Pack, and more.

Xbox gamers at Xbox One X launch

  1. Mixer Unlocks New Interactive Streaming Experiences

For the Mixer team, 2017 was about community growth and innovation. We welcomed a ton of new streamers, expanded our existing communities and added new ones, and made huge investments in new features like 4-person Co-Streaming, Mixer HypeZone and our new mobile app for iOS and Android that make Mixer the best place to stream and watch for console, PC, and mobile gamers alike. Seeing communities, creators and game developers unite around new experiences on Mixer has been incredible – Telltale Games using “Crowd Play” enables the audience to control story decisions, for example, or developers using new means of interactivity in Minecraft, The Darwin Project, Death’s Door and more. 2018 will bring even more interactive games as well as new capabilities for streamers.

  1. Reinvesting in Age of Empires

Celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the Age of Empires franchise with the community at gamescom this year was epic. We announced Age of Empires IV there, which has long been on many fan wish lists. Add that we are partnering with Relic Entertainment, one of the best RTS developers in the world, and there is a lot to look forward to with the storied PC franchise. It’s just the beginning, as Age of Empires: Definitive Edition launches early next year, and Definitive Editions of Age of Empires II and Age of Empires III are planned in the future.

  1. The SteamVR library comes to Windows Mixed Reality

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update brings mixed reality to your PC this holiday season, and along with it a catalog of over 2000 of the most popular VR games available with SteamVR. Windows Mixed Reality headsets don’t require any external cameras or sensors, and set up in just minutes so you can enjoy the immersive action of the top VR games available today, along with all of the apps in the Microsoft Store.

On behalf of the entire Xbox team, thank you to all Xbox fans. You are what makes gaming on Xbox great and the motivation that drives our team. 2018 is going to be an amazing year, and we can’t wait to share it with you.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out your own personal Xbox Year-in-Review to see how you gamed in 2017. Happy holidays!