The venerable mainframe rolls on at IBM with the release of the z16 – TechCrunch

When you think of mainframes, you probably have a mental image of an old movie, with punch cards and a computer that takes up an entire large room. But the mainframe lives on and is a viable product at IBM. Today, it’s much more elegant and powerful, helping to run data-intensive workloads for the world’s largest industries, with use cases that might not be cloud-ready.

IBM today introduced the latest mainframe in its history, the z16. It runs on the IBM Telum processor, which the company launched last summer. The chip has been optimized to run massive workloads, processing 300 billion high-value financial transactions per day with just one millisecond of latency, according to the company.

That’s for customers who have a high need for speed with high volume. The main use case the company sells for this monster machine is real-time fraud prevention. Financial institutions in particular are the target customers, but Ric Lewis, senior vice president of systems at IBM, says it’s for just about any company that processes a large number of business-critical transactions.

“It’s still banking, insurance, public sector, government, healthcare, retail, anywhere you really have high transaction throughput, where you need security, reliability and the best transaction processing in the world” Lewis said.

That boils down to the world’s largest companies, including two-thirds of the Fortune 100, 45 of the world’s top 50 banks, eight of the top 10 insurers, seven of the top 10 global retailers, and eight of the top 10 telecommunications companies. . , which use mainframes, according to data provided by IBM. Most of those machines come from IBM.

1950s computer room with mainframe and punch card machine.

Circa 1955, an office worker sorts punch cards while two men talk near the console of an IBM 705 III mainframe computer owned by the US Army, 1950s. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)

“What’s great about this latest announcement is that we’ve now integrated specially optimized AI inference for real-time fraud detection into the chip,” he said. The difference here is that there is often a delay between detection of fraud and awareness by the consumer. IBM wants to change that with the z16. “Now, that set of clients can access the data [that fraud could be occurring] in real time within the chip. It’s all enabled by our own VLSI chip called Telum that we announced last [year]but this will be the first system to ship with that chip.”

Lewis says that while the cloud has been great for industry, he believes there’s a whole class of businesses and applications where the cloud just isn’t a viable option, and for a percentage of them, a powerful mainframe like the z16 could be the answer.

“There was a time when people said everything was going to end up in the cloud, and I think what we’re seeing more recently is that people think data is everywhere. Not everything is going to be in the cloud. And really the evolution of the entire computing landscape is more towards specialized infrastructure,” she said.

And of course, in Lewis’s opinion, that means specialized hardware like his company’s z16. The company’s mainframe sales fell 6% from its most recent earnings report, but customers may have been waiting for the tech refresh that comes with this announcement before buying additional units.

The company said the z16 will be available to all customers on May 31 and could be proof of Lewis’s view that some workloads will remain in a private data center running on mainframes for some time.

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