From 7 nanometer node chips to built-in AI acceleration and privacy, IBM Research was behind many of the groundbreaking aspects of the new IBM z16 system.
On April 5, we unveiled IBM z16, our next-generation mainframe system, containing several groundbreaking innovations, including the new 7 nm Telum chip that can facilitate on-device AI inferencing that’s 20 times faster than sending an AI request to an x86 server in the cloud, as well as quantum-safe cryptography, multi-cloud support, and data privacy that’s central to the system. Many of those innovations began life in IBM Research.
Scaling to 7 nm
These innovations didn't happen overnight. Back in 2015, IBM Research demonstrated the industry’s first 7 nm test chip with our partners, including Samsung. This 7 nm technology achieved two important milestones: 2.4x logic density and 17.6% frequency gain over 14 nm technology, which was at that time the most advanced technology. This 7 nm chip included the first implementation of Extreme UltraViolet (EUV) lithography technology. We had developed the semiconductor technology that would provide a foundation for better performance and power saving.
This innovation came from our Albany lab, which has since developed into a world-class ecosystem of partners from government, academia and industry. The result of over $15 billion in public and private investment, the Albany Nanotech Complex has continually delivered advances in CMOS logic scaling such as nanosheet architecture, our In May of 2021, IBM introduced the world's first 2 nm node chip. Read more.2 nm node chip, and most recently vertical-transport FET, or VTFET is the revolutionary new chip architecture that could keep Moore’s Law alive for years to come. Read more.VTFET.
A powerful chip with AI at its core
Our 7 nm node technology served as a foundation for advances in AI hardware, such as our Telum is an AI processor developed with technology from IBM Research to power IBM systems. Read more.Telum processor. Back in August, we unveiled Telum, a new 7 nm CPU chip. It’s IBM’s first commercially available processor to contain on-chip acceleration for AI inferencing, which could have massive impacts on industries like banking, finance, healthcare, and logistics. At the time, we said we believed it to have the potential to be as great of a technological shift as the original IBM zSystem was when it launched. The new IBM z16 system will be the first to ship with Telum onboard.
The AI core augmenting capabilities for IBM z16 critical workloads is the result of the aggressive roadmap of the IBM Research AI Hardware Center towards sustained innovation for continued efficiency improvement of AI compute resources. The research teams have been working with the IBM Systems teams to integrate the AI core technology from our latest generation chip into the IBM zSystem.
In traditional computing systems, calculations are usually performed by constantly transferring data between off-chip memory and processors. For AI workloads, though, there’s a far higher computational requirement, as they generally require large amounts of data. The more AI is infused into application workloads, the more critical it is to have an efficient system where both the general-purpose CPU cores and AI cores are tightly integrated on the same chip.
Each Telum chip provides a dedicated AI core alongside the traditional horsepower of eight CPU cores. The CPU cores handle general-purpose software applications, while the AI core is highly efficient for running deep-learning workloads. Each Telum chip contains 22 billion transistors along with 19 miles of wire.
With Telum, it’s possible to detect fraud during the instant of a transaction. It’s possible to determine whether to extend someone a loan as quickly as they applied.
Beyond sheer power, this chip has the potential to revolutionize the way AI is implemented at scale. The chip offers a 20-fold speedup in AI inference over sending the AI request to x86 servers in the cloud. With Telum, it’s possible to detect fraud during the instant of a transaction. It’s possible to determine whether to extend someone a loan as quickly as they applied.
With past systems, running AI inference on a process would have to happen after the transaction took place. Think about a time your bank notified you that a suspected fraudulent transaction took place on your account: that notification likely came minutes to hours after the fraud happened. By then, the fraudster could have gotten away with money that now needs to be recovered. Being able to detect and prevent fraud during the moment of a transaction, whether it’s in finance, retail, or myriad other industries, would be a dramatic shift in the way AI is deployed in the modern world.
But it’s not just about running AI processes more quickly — it’s about the sorts of problems Telum allows you to tackle. An IBM zSystem requires 50% less energy than x86 systems to run the same workload. zSystems can run at 100% utilization, whereas x86 systems run at far lower utilizations.
Delivering systems that can run AI workloads considerably more efficiently opens up the door for all sorts of new opportunities. Logistics and retail firms can run large-scale inferencing tasks to figure out the places most at risk in their supply chains. Finance houses can determine which trades were most at risk before settlement, and people could find out in an instant, instead of weeks, whether they’ve been approved for a loan.
Companies can also use IBM Research-designed AI software on the IBM z16 to help them find similar instances too; if fraud was just found on one account, you could use SQL Insights which has built in neural networks embedded in Db2 for z/OS to find similar transactions — without having to install, select, tune and configure AI models, or pre-determine what features the AI models should be trained on.
Finance houses can determine which trades were most at risk before settlement, and people could find out in an instant whether they’ve been approved for a loan.
The IBM z16 system will also offer multi- and hybrid-cloud support through z/OS Container extensions (zCX) for OpenShift, which was co-developed by IBM Research and can be managed as Red Hat OpenShift containers. This will allow for workloads running AI accelerated models to be managed by OpenShift on premises or as part of a multi-cloud setup.
With z/OS container extensions, and support for popular development tools, programmers can build apps for their sites that transparently take advantage of the IBM z16’s hardware.
Security for today and tomorrow
IBM Research’s contributions to the new IBM z16 system don’t stop at the hardware innovations or availability of IBM zSystems and services in the cloud. We wanted to ensure that regardless of what these systems are called to do, they can secure the customers’ — and their customers’ — data.
We designed the IBM z16 to have the highest security out of the box. We provided data privacy for diagnostics that can detect and scrub sensitive data before it goes anywhere outside of the system. Hackers often try to force software and computer systems to stop with errors, as this will force computers to automatically provide diagnostic data, where personal information can be exposed.
We also provide cryptography hardware that automatically encrypts all data in IBM zSystems’ Hyper Protect databases, virtual machines and containers. Policies can be set to pervasively encrypt z/OS data and Linux on zSystems, via Secure Service containers (on premises) or Hyper Protect (in the cloud).
The IBM z16 includes the IBM Hyper Protect Data Controller, a feature that protects data as it leaves the IBM zSystem. You can set up rules for different data, such as which user has what type of access and how the data should be encrypted. For example, one user can only see part of the data, whereas other users will only get the encrypted version of the data. These rules are enforced even when the data leaves an IBM z16 system, applied wherever the data is sent.
We’ve also built the IBM z16 system to help with compliance, as we know that 40% of IT departments and business’ time is spent in compliance. If, for example, your system is processing credit card data, you have to abide by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). Our IBM z16 compliance software checks the components of the zSystem for adherence and provides a compliance dashboard to system administrators.
But it’s not just about helping solve today’s biggest challenges; we want to make sure that IBM z16 can stand up to the biggest threats of tomorrow, too. IBM z16 is the industry’s first quantum-safe system, using and providing quantum-safe encryption, an approach for constructing security protocols that helps protect data and systems against current and future threats.
To learn more about all of the innovations in the new IBM z16 system, please visit IBM systems.