IBM’s new CPU makes security seamless thanks to powerful encryption

IBM has trumpeted what it’s calling a huge breakthrough in data encryption and the battle against cybercriminals, with a next-gen mainframe computer driven by a powerful CPU which is capable of encrypting all of a company’s data, all the time.

IBM Z, as it’s called, means that firms don’t have to pick, choose and manage which data is encrypted. Rather, it allows for all data associated with any app, cloud service or database to be encrypted at all times, in a streamlined process that doesn’t require any software changes.

At the heart of the system is what IBM calls the industry’s fastest microprocessor, which runs at 5.2GHz and boasts a new scalable system structure which offers a 35% capacity increase in terms of traditional workloads compared to the previous-generation z13.

Apparently IBM Z offers a fourfold increase in the silicon dedicated to cryptographic algorithms, and has had its software stack fully reworked, so that it’s now capable of running more than 12 billion encrypted transactions on a daily basis. According to IBM, it’s 18 times faster compared to today’s x86 systems that only focus on limited slices of data, and weighs in at just 5% of the cost of such comparable x86-based solutions.

Given the current climate of fear around hackers and ever-increasing amount of data breaches, IBM obviously believes this system will be an attractive proposition in terms of watertight security and keeping everything encrypted all the time.

Impact of cybercrime

IBM naturally had some worrying stats and projections on cybercrime to highlight, including the fact that the estimated impact of cybercrime on the global economy will be $8 trillion (around £6 trillion) by 2022. And the firm further observed that over the course of last year, over four billion data records were stolen or lost – a more than fivefold increase compared to 2015.

And indeed when it comes to the vast majority of nine billion data records which have been breached over the past half a decade, only 4% were encrypted. Obviously, if data is spilled or stolen somehow, at least if it’s encrypted, it can’t be used by cybercriminals (or that’s the theory).

IBM says the new tech will also help businesses more easily comply with data regulations such as the EU’s GDPR.

And the firm further noted that IBM Z was being introduced to the IBM Cloud as an encryption engine to run IBM Blockchain services in data centres worldwide (Dallas, London, Frankfurt, Sao Paolo, Tokyo and Toronto).

Marie Wieck, general manager, IBM Blockchain, commented: "The powerful combination of IBM Z encryption and secure containers differentiates IBM Blockchain services on the cloud by supporting the trust models new blockchain networks require. Enterprise clients also benefit from the ease of use making management transparent to the application and the user."

Image Credit: Connie Zhou for IBM

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).