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IBM Launches Z9, Latest Big-Iron Platform

IBM on Tuesday rolled out its latest mainframe offering, the System z9, with new virtualization and security features. The z9, designed for high-performance computing environments, is available in five models ranging from one to 54 processors. IBM says the system can process 1 billion transactions per day, more than twice the performance of its predecessor, the zSeries 990.

The z9 comes loaded with security features. To thwart the kinds of snafus involving lost backup tapes that have plagued companies such as Bank of America, Citigroup, and Time-Warner, the mainframe provides the ability to encrypt tapes bound for shipment, thereby protecting consumer identities and personal information. It provides centralized management of encryption keys and supports the open Advanced Encryption Standard.

Another security feature is the ability to configure PCI-X adapters as encryption accelerators, resulting in a threefold performance hike in encrypting online transactions compared with the z990.

The system's security features are among the z9's most distinguishing characteristics. "The need to manage diverse computing environments and workloads gives rise to the need for better security, and this machine seems well suited to play that management role," says Mike Kahn, managing director at the Clipper Group, a research firm.

IBM also unveiled Virtualization Engine 2.0, a new version of the software for partitioning servers and storage systems into logical devices. The software has been enhanced to allow dynamic partitioning of systems based on IBM's Power5 processor. The z9's virtualization features enable a single system to be split up into 60 logical hardware partitions, twice as many as the z990.

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