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What the z15 Means for Database Administrators and Application Developers

Joseph Gulla explores what the z15 means for other skilled people like database administrators and application developers.

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This week, I am continuing my exploration of the IBM z15 product, which was announced by IBM on Sept. 12.

In recent posts, I’ve been surveying the product using different points of view. In the first post, I explored the question “What kind of mainframe is it?” by discussing the product focus using three business-value features: security and privacy; business continuity and resilience; and the hybrid cloud. With this type of focus, business leaders might be able to more easily appreciate the new product’s offerings.
In the second post, I looked at the core features from the point of view of performance specialists, system planners, architects and procurement personnel. These groups would care about the z15 enhancements as it connects directly to their jobs. Many in IT would also be interested in core z15 capabilities, but I wanted to narrow the focus a bit.
In this post, let’s explore what the z15 means for other skilled people like database administrators and application developers.

Features for System Planners, System Administrators and DBAs

The z15 is equipped with the IBM Integrated Accelerator for zEnterprise Data Compression, which is designed to reduce the cost of storing, transporting and processing data without changing the applications themselves. With support via system-wide parameters and individual commends that give great implementation flexibility, this is a big deal.
This is the latest and best yet exploration of the opportunity that data compression represents. IBM Integrated Accelerator improves compression ratios using Huffman coding (lossless data compression) and replaces the zEDC Express adapter (on the z14) with on-chip compression that provides increased throughput and capacity. The Integrated Accelerator provides up to 8x faster application elapsed time with no additional CPU time compared to the z14 (with zEDC Express for compression/decompression).
There are many implementations for the Integrated Accelerator feature, which make an overall compression implementation a more compelling possibility. Consider these use cases:
  • z/OS data, for example, SMF logstreams, BSAM and QSAM data sets, and DFSMShsm and DFSMSdss processing files
  • z/OS Distributed File Service files and directories
  • z/OS applications with support for in-application compression provided through zlib, an open-source data compression library
  • z/OS databases, for example, to compress Db2 large object table spaces, archive logs and IBM Content Manager OnDemand archives
  • Network transmission using IBM Sterling Direct:Connect for z/OS to transmit compressed data from z/OS to z/OS or z/OS to other platforms
As you can read, there are many opportunities for this feature to have a big impact. This new feature interoperates with the zEDC compression used on previous IBM Z platforms and with industry-standard compression used on other platforms.

Features for Application Design and Development

Application designers and developers are going to appreciate the new instructions that are implemented with the z15. The z15 has 30+ new instructions that are employed in different ways. Some are made use of by Java, whereas others are for new vector enhancements to improve analytics applications. Others are new instructions focused on sort acceleration.
The capabilities embodied in these new instructions are implemented in a variety of ways. System software has been enhanced and optimized for the z15, including compilers (and languages) such as:
  • Enterprise COBOL for z/OS V6.2
  • Enterprise PL/I for z/OS V5.2
  • XL C/C++ for z/OS V2.4
  • COBOL optimizer
  • Automatic Binary Optimizer for z/OS V1.3  
  • Java
In addition to compilers, other software has been enhanced to utilize the new instructions. For example, z/OS V2.1 with PTFs and above have support for sort accelerator functions. This is one example of many.

Features for Security Professionals

The z15 continues the strong security focus of the z/Architecture. The product’s design for data protection and privacy allows clients to encrypt many new data sets transparently, which can help them provide a system of protection around their data residing on IBM Z. This includes cryptographic performance improvements with the Crypto Express7S (called a crypto adapter) and the IBM Z processor based cryptography with the CP Assist for Cryptographic Functions (called on-processor crypto) that enables the protection of data in flight or at rest. 
There are many other implementations that will be of great interest to the security community. An example is processor improvements called Message-Security-Assist extension 9. This feature provides support for elliptic curve cryptography authentication of messages, the generation of elliptic curve keys and scalar multiplication. Message-Security-Assist extension 9 is made possible through a new instruction, Compute Digital Signature Authentication, which provides algorithms using curves P-256, P-384, P-521, Ed25519 and Ed448. This feature provides compliance with the Digital Signature Standard and National Institute of Standards and Technology July 2013 standards. Features like this allow the security community to keep steps ahead of those with criminal intent.
Security planners and administrators will utilize IBM Z Data Privacy Passports on the z15, which protects data not only on IBM Z, but also across multicloud environments without application changes. With this software, they can extend data privacy and security across a hybrid cloud, basically affording the organization encryption everywhere so data can be moved securely between environments while maintaining full policy control.

Next Week

Next week, I’ll continue with my discussion of the z15 with a focus on sources of information like Redbooks publications, analyst reports, case studies and information on the role of IBM Research.
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