As I shared previously, IBM’s April 5, 2022 announcements are centered around four pillars. In this final blog in the series, I will review the fourth and final pillar — Flexible Infrastructure.
The fourth pillar is Flexible Infrastructure
Flexible Infrastructure focuses on these four areas: Continuous Compliance, Flexible Capacity, Sustainability and System Recovery Boost.
In support of continuous compliance, IBM is delivering the System Z Security and Compliance Center (ZSCC) to allow your Security Operations Center to better understand and quickly demonstrate the risk and compliance posture associated with your mainframe platform. Organizations face an ever-changing and complex regulatory environment – and the risk of non- to our enterprises.
With IBM’s ZSCC offering, mainframe audit and compliance preparation can be reduced from one month to one week. This capability is achieved by structuring the offering into both evidence providers and ZSCC microservices. As the name implies, evidence providers present facts to ZSCC microservices. The various evidence providers found within the software you run on your mainframe as well as the System z Firmware will use a suitable interface to pass the facts to the ZSCC microservices layer deployed on Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform as microservices running on Z.
What is collected and how it is presented is controlled by your polices. The offering includes out of the box compliance profiles such as PCI DSS 3.2.1, CIS benchmarks as well as custom profiles that you build.
Members of your Security Operations Center are presented with a dashboard that can be easily used to determine your mainframe compliance posture.
In support of Flexible Capacity, it is helpful to understand how the business continuity landscape has changed. Looking back five years, the Federal Reserve informed the largest U.S. banks (Tier 1) that they must be able to prove they can run their services out of a secondary data center for an extended period of time.
To support that requirement from five years ago, IBM provided an offering known at the time as the IBM DR Cloud for IBM Z. Approximately three years later, this same regulation started to move through Tier 2 financial institutions worldwide.
Now with the impacts of natural disasters and the pandemic, these capabilities are even more important. For example, the 2021 Texas deep freeze caused power outages at the Greyhound data center which prevented ticket sales COVID-19 impacted business operations due to lockdowns and work from home orders. Natural disasters and pandemics are capable of disrupting business operations; those types of events provide business leaders with early warning signals. Those signals can trigger a proactive data center move under the premise processing capacity is made available, cost effectively.
There is a third type of business disrupter with little to no early warning, that is Ransomware.
How do you protect your enterprise from a Ransomware attack? How do you know you have a backup of your system and data volumes that are usable? When did you last test it? How did you test it? After all, it takes MIPS and IPL to test your recovery system. Do you have spare capacity today that will allow you to do that? Is it affordable?
IBM worked with several clients that use the predecessor offering and developed a new temporary capacity offering known as Flexible Capacity for Cyber Resiliency. This is available only on the new z16 server. The temporary capacity is available for up to 12 months – an increase from30 days.
This temporary capacity is available for the following use cases:
- Disaster Recovery and DR Test: Allows you to transfer the capacity you need at your DR site to continue to run your business workloads. Automate and test recovery procedures for unplanned outages, including cyber attacks to provide near-continuous availability and disaster recovery.
- Frictionless Compliance: Enables you to meet the ever-evolving stringent requirements of global regulators, allowing a highly automated and fast process to demonstrate a production site swap.
- Facility Maintenance: Allows you to run your production workload from your alternate site while you perform maintenance at your primary site with the capacity you need.
- Pro-active Avoidance: Allows you to protect your critical business services from natural disasters. Avoid rolling power outages, migrate critical workloads to an alternate site before your business gets impacted and stay there for up to one year.
Sustainability, represents IBM’s continued focus on the environment. Within IBM, there is an assigned vice president that is authorized to set IBM’s strategy for environmental affairs. Last year marked 50 years since the issuance of IBM’s very first corporate environmental policy in 1971. In 2021, IBM committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. IBM System Z is no stranger to sustainability, also in 2021, IBM Z was a SEAL product award – acknowledging IBM Z as an innovative and impactful product that is purpose-built for a sustainable future.
The final Flexible Capacity focus area is IBM’s System Recovery Boost.
Evolving Solutions has written previously about IBM’s System Recovery Boost capability. In September of 2019, with the launch of IBM’s z15 server, System Recovery Boost was announced. This no charge feature provided to our clients the ability to accelerate service restoration and workload recovery with zero increase to their IBM software licensing costs. This worked by providing a fixed-duration boost period that enabled general-purpose processors on sub-capacity machines to run at full-capacity speed, while also enabling general purpose workloads to run on zIIP processors. These boost periods applied to LPAR shutdown (30-minute boost) and LPAR startup (60-minute boost).
When first launched, System Recovery Boost only focused on accelerating the IPL process. Once clients started using this new technology, IBM’s attention to this technology turned past the IPL process. In September 2020, IBM expanded System Recovery Boost beyond the IPL, into the realm of Parallel Sysplex recovery. IBM introduced a new type of short-duration boost called Recovery Process Boost that allows current server technology clients to accelerate sysplex recovery to reduce disruption and expedite their return to steady-state operations. The Recovery Process Boost can last up to five minutes each, and clients can use up to 30 minutes of total Recovery Process Boost time per day. For those that administer z/OS images, they would recognize this boost when they issue the command ‘VARY XCF, sysname, OFFLINE’ to an image within their sysplex.
Now, with IBM’s z16 server, a set of new Recovery Process Boosts are being made available to reduce disruption, minimize business impact, and accelerate return to steady-state operations. These short 5-minute boost periods can be extended to Started Tasks on the z/OS platform.
This type of boost is known as a Middleware Region Start/Restart Boost that accelerates the start/restart of customer-specified middleware Started Tasks (STC).
This represents a powerful extension. You have complete control over which middleware regions get boosted and which do not, so you can ensure that your boosts are applied to the middleware started tasks you consider most important.
The control is driven through your WLM policy with a new attribute tied to workload classification known as BOOST=Y|N.
Consider for a moment the number of CICS Regions your Z System hosts. Those CICS regions could very well support JAVA workloads and require the JVM to initialize as part of a CICS region re-cycle. At IPLs this is not a problem as it picks up the IPL boost.
But, what about a mid-day recycle? That can be painful. But, not on IBM’s new z16 server running z/OS 2.4 or above with the correct maintenance installed.
IBM’s System Recovery Boost technology continues to be extended for our mainframe clients, providing real value with each enhancement.
IBM’s April 5th announcement is significant in a number of areas.
From an Evolving Solutions perspective, the Decision Velocity pillar is a game changer. IBM is offering a complete solution that will allow mainframe customers to score 100% of their transactions. I don’t say this lightly, IBM has taken a run at this challenge in the past. Components were present, but it was never a complete solution. That has all changed given the presence of the on-chip AI Accelerator coupled with open source instrumentation that will allow higher level frameworks to take advantage of this capability with no changes to client models.
If you are interested in learning more about the IBM Z16 server, or components of IBM’s broader April 5th announcement, feel free to reach out to Jim Fyffe via LinkedIn or send an email to Jim.F@evolvingsol.com.