Mainframe Storage on the Cheap


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On what other planet is $100/GB for disk a bargain? The mainframe world, of course! To great fanfare last month, IBM introduced its "Baby Shark," the Enterprise Storage Server 750, which when purchased with IBM's new zSeries 890 mainframe, starts at a mere $100,000 for 1.1TB.

Compare that to pricing for an ESS 800, and $100/GB is nothing, according to Brian Truskowski, general manager of storage software for IBM's systems group. Pricing for ESS 800 can cost three times that.

Other mainframe disk vendors concur with IBM's pricing. Hu Yoshida, vice president and CTO for Hitachi Data Systems, says $100/GB (or .$10 per MB, if you prefer), is standard for mainframe disk.

In contrast, pricing for open- systems storage costs significantly less than that. Bob Zimmerman, principal analyst with Forrester Research, for example, is seeing bids for high-end Fibre Channel storage such as EMC's CX700 or IBM's FAStT900 between $30/GB to $60/GB. SCSI-connected ATA-based RAID storage, meanwhile, can be purchased for under $3/GB: Nexsan's ATAbaby has a list price of $2,795 for 1.2TB.

Why do mainframe shops endure these prices? In a nutshell, "there really aren't many options for mainframe disk--IBM, EMC and HDS," says Art Tolsma, CEO at Luminex, which makes VirtualBlue 3990, an ESCON/FICON to Fibre Channel gateway that emulates mainframe direct-access storage device (DASD) (a.k.a. disk) formats.

Technically, the lack of choice is a result of "the way the mainframe

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stores information out to disk is fundamentally different than in open systems," says John Webster, founder and senior analyst with Data Mobility Group. "The same data blocks can not be read."

This was first published in May 2004

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