Published: Mon, July 17, 2017
Industry | By Dora Warner

IBM unveils powerful new encryption mainframe

IBM unveils powerful new encryption mainframe

The new platform can also "self-destruct" encryption keys the moment there's any tampering, and quickly encrypts the programming interfaces that tie apps and services together. The new system also introduces a new encryption engine that the company says will, for the first time, make it possible to pervasively encrypt data associated with any application, cloud service or database all the time. "And we're really doing it for the first time at scale, which has not been done up to this point, because it's been incredibly challenging and expensive to do".

Big Blue is saying that this mainframe is "ushering in a new era of data protection" due to its ability to encrypt data, all the time, and at any scale. Obviously, if data is spilled or stolen somehow, at least if it's encrypted, it can't be used by cybercriminals (or that's the theory).

The system has been in development for five years, more than the usual three, with customers involved for more than two years, IBM said.

"This is a significant technology that they are bringing to the market", Peter Rutten, analyst for IDC's Servers and Compute Platforms Group, said about the new encryption capabilities.

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There are some applications that can profit from having one of IBM's mysterious black monoliths in the data center today. The general idea is that IBM Z will encrypt all data all the time and reduce the attack surface for enterprises about 92 percent. "With this technology, the whole system in its entirety is".

Compliance and security processes can be automated with IBM Z, and it complies with GDPR.

Not every business has a security strategy, and it's highly likely that not every business has encrypted its data, but IBM thinks it can solve this problem with its Z mainframe. The centres are to be built in Dallas, London, Frankfurt, Sao Paolo, Tokyo and Toronto, with more planned.

The company said only 2 percent of data in corporate data centers is encrypted because it's expensive and time-consuming to do at the application level that most encryption technology addresses. According to IBM, it's 18 times faster compared to today's x86 systems that only focus on limited slices of data, and weighs in at just 5% of the cost of such comparable x86-based solutions.

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Apparently IBM Z offers a fourfold increase in the silicon dedicated to cryptographic algorithms, and has had its software stack fully reworked, so that it's now capable of running more than 12 billion encrypted transactions on a daily basis.

The key management system meets Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) Level 4 requirements, where the industry norm is only Level 2, IBM said.

"The vast majority of stolen or leaked data today is in the open and easy to use because encryption has been very hard and expensive to do at scale", Ross Mauri, general manager of IBM Z, said in the release. It also includes new processor designs and upgrades to the operating system, middleware, and databases.

IBM Z, as it's called, means that firms don't have to pick, choose and manage which data is encrypted. "If someone were to get access to the keys, they can't do anything with them", Perera said.

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An analysis from Toni Sacconaghi Jr for Bernstein Research says IBM's hardware business is in secular decline, and, while mainframe hardware contributes just 3 per cent of Big Blue's revenues, the overall mainframe platform accounted for almost a quarter of total IBM revenues and an estimated 40 per cent of profits in 2016. Because of this, only about 2% of corporate data is now encrypted, the release said.

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