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Taking Advantage of New IBM Z Opportunities with Security and Optimization

By Denise Tabor posted Wed September 22, 2021 04:16 PM

As the IBM Z Platform continues to improve and transform to provide hybrid cloud capabilities, there are several interesting themes that emerge.  I want to focus on two specific topics: Resource optimization and security. Here’s what to consider when implementing these improvements to your IBM Z environments.

Resource Optimization

Total cost of ownership is one of the most important factors for IBM Z Platform customers as they are making improvements to their environment.  As new technology emerges to increase the value of the IBM Z Platform, clients can reduce the cost of operating their platforms by evaluating resource optimization techniques. This can allow organizations to make strategic applications and data more consumable. 

Precisely’s Syncsort MFX offers high-performance sort, copy, join, and other sort optimization features designed to work with the z/OS operating system.  Syncsort ZPSaver can further optimize these processes by offloading workloads from primary CPUs to IBM z Integrated Information Processors (zIIPs). This can help significantly lower CPU utilization resulting in lower software licensing costs and shifting workload and resources to meet SLAs and batch window requirements. This can become increasingly more valuable utilizing the new Tailored Fit Pricing offering by IBM for both software and hardware.

In addition to optimization improvements for the IBM z15 system, the IBM Integrated Accelerator for Z Sort is a new coprocessor designed for the z15. Z Sort can help reduce CPU usage and improve elapsed time for eligible workloads by speeding up sorting, shorten batch windows, and improve select database functions.

The challenge to taking advantage of this new hardware is that customers need our utilities, Syncsort MFX and its zIIP-offload capabilities, to optimize sorting workload and achieve performance gains. Precisely worked closely with the IBM z/OS Poughkeepsie team and hardware architects for the sort accelerator.  We have developed new algorithms in Syncsort MFX to take advantage of the coprocessor and will release this capability in September 2021. With the new algorithms, our customers can see dramatic improvements to batch sort job performance.  In our lab, we are seeing CPU and elapsed time improvements of up to 35% depending on the key length, record length, file size and some other factors.

We also collaborated with the Db2 Utilities team to develop Z Sort enablement in Db2 Sort – used in the LOAD, REBUILD INDEX and REORG utilities. The support was delivered at the end of 2020, and Db2 Sort customers can see both CPU and elapsed time benefits up to 37% better than using DFSORT (which currently only supports the Db2 REORG utility).

We continue to evaluate enhancements in the z/OS operating system, adding support to Precisely products in order to consistently deliver superior performance.

Security, trust, compliance, and regulatory requirements

Regulatory requirements, such as GDPR and CCPA, are designed to protect data and safeguard privacy. Loss of data or compromised information can come with high penalties, and new innovations to assist with this data protection have been implemented to fortify security. The IBM Z platform offers highly secure ways to help meet compliance and regulatory requirements. For example, multi-factor authentication, centralized key management, in-flight data protection, and pervasive encryption allow you to implement security to counter cyberattacks.

The IBM Z Pervasive Encryption solution is a method to enable extensive encryption of data in-flight and at-rest to meet these protection standards. This solution is enabled by administrative policy controls and is designed to be application transparent, without requiring application changes. Data set encryption provides data security at the data set level using DFSMS access methods. This system-wide solution is more cost effective than traditional software encryption solutions. DFSMS access methods provide data set encryption for sequential, basic, large, and extended format datasets.

The challenge to implementing data encryption is it consumes processor cycles, so it doesn’t come without penalty. Although mainframe customers love the pervasive encryption approach, no one likes the additional resource consumption. For Syncsort MFX users, if the input or output data set is encrypted, BSAM must be used instead of our high performant low level IO access methods, and there is an extra cost from that perspective.

Last year, IBM’s DFSMS team developed an EXCP encryption API solution called IGGENC to help vendors like us use our low-level IO for encrypted data sets and improve encryption performance. DFSMS splits the encryption/decryption processing from the I/O processing, so we can continue to use our low-level IO methods to read and write data sets and use IGGENC to encrypt and decrypt data on zIIP processors, which will significantly reduce the CPU cost and elapsed time.

We have seen great performance improvement from our benchmark testing. For Syncsort MFX, we have seen up to 45% CPU and 40% elapsed savings, and for ZPSaver we have seen up to 80% CPU and 40% elapsed time savings when processing encrypted, basic and large format datasets.

This enhancement will be delivered in two phases. Phase 1 is to provide this new ability for SORTIN data sets which is now available. Phase 2 will be for SORTOUT data sets, providing the end-to-end improvements. We are expecting to release the second phase before the end of the year.

We are excited for the latest innovations coming from IBM and will continue to work with their software and hardware engineers to provide industry-leading solutions to common Z Platform challenges. Stay tuned because we are not complete with our plans to innovate and improve our products. There is ample opportunity to review and adjust our solutions to take advantage of the Z platform, delivering continuous performance and efficiency enhancements.