The majority of data processing tasks required by large corporations, universities, healthcare facilities, financial institutions, and other organizations are performed on mainframe computers. In part, this is because of the tremendous power and stability that mainframe computers provide. However, mainframes are not just extremely efficient at handling massive amounts of data – they are also highly secure. And, in a time when cyber-attacks are on the dramatic rise all around the world, that kind of security is a key advantage.
Described below are some of the most notable security advantages of today’s mainframe computers:
- Hardware + software on one computer: The key to security is control. Preserving data security comes down to the ability to restrict and monitor access points. In a cloud environment, there is an abundance of network traffic that can be easily intercepted by nefarious users. However, with a mainframe, all the hardware and software necessary to complete processing tasks and transactions reside on a single machine. This supports much greater security than a distributed environment.
- Front end processors act as gatekeepers: A front end processor (FEP) or communications controller deals with input and output communications with the outside world. This reduces the load on the rest of the mainframe system. But the FEP also acts as a “bouncer,” ensuring security threats are isolated from your big Iron.
- Security by design: Today’s mainframes are built from the ground up with security in mind – from their operating systems to their cryptographic hardware acceleration. After all, these machines are responsible for handling immense volumes of valuable data. But the truth is that mainframes and their associated programming languages were designed with “thick walls” from the start, and now support even the toughest security protocols.
- Pervasive encryption: During the summer of 2017, IBM unveiled its z14 mainframe server which includes, among other features, pervasive encryption. Pervasive encryption supports 100% disk and tape encryption. Further, it is designed to complement the mainframe’s existing encryption mechanism.
Distributed environments have multiple entry points that are exposed to network traffic. Thus, they are vulnerable in numerous ways. Mainframes, on the other hand, provide tighter security when it comes to protecting sensitive data. In fact, it’s rare for mainframes to be hacked given their impressive security measures. With the introduction of new and aggressive security approaches such as pervasive encryption, mainframe security is here to stay.