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Modernize mainframe storage

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The Linux factor
Even those changes pale by comparison with the architectural revolution that IBM has wrought by combining the open systems Linux OS with its traditionally closed zSeries mainframes. The significant traction gained by this combination during 2002 confirms that the OS--and not just standalone management platforms--will play an increasing role in the future of mainframe storage.

The Linux zSeries combination saves storage managers from the limitations of conventional mainframe storage. For example, traditional ESCON-attached storage volumes are limited to 27GB capacity, while a SCSI-based FC-attached device can address up to 2TB per volume. This is important for the Linux mainframe's advertised role in running thousands of virtual machines simultaneously.

Server consolidation isn't the only benefit of Linux on the mainframe. IBM's zOS and OS/390 mainframe operating systems were designed for ESCON-only attachment, limiting their relevance in the fiber-based architectures of the future. Linux-based zSeries servers include native Linux drivers that convert between SCSI and ESCON signaling.

Simply using Linux and FICON can improve performance by eliminating signaling overheads, according to Tony Pearson, senior software architect in the Storage Systems Group of IBM, Armonk, NY. In such a configuration, the Linux systems remain oblivious that they're reading from and writing to

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mainframe storage. The gradual blurring of the lines between mainframe and open systems will eventually facilitate a more open approach to mainframe storage management.

"Storage is taking on a bigger role as the center of the universe for a data center," says IBM's Pearson. "The mainframe is now becoming just one of the many servers that attach to the SAN. People will choose the mainframe as being the best place to run their apps for the mainframe's capabilities. They'll choose Unix or Windows for their advantages, and they'll be able to move applications from one platform from another without having to change their storage approach."

This was first published in February 2003

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