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The great divide: mainframe and open-systems storage

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be learned from the mainframe?
Storage managers who know both mainframe and open environments say that although the open-systems storage world has begun to make progress, it still lags far behind the mainframe environment when it comes to storage management tools. True, suppliers have begun to deliver storage resource management-oriented tools for the distributed environment. But that sort of capability has been available on the mainframe side for many years. Here's a short list of some other common mainframe storage management capabilities that managers say they'd love to see implemented in the open-systems world:
 
Automated, policy-based provisioning: Using IBM Corp.'s DFSMS, mainframe storage managers have long been able to create common storage pools from which specific resources could be automatically provisioned based on policies like the cost and performance of storage required by specific applications. In the open-systems world, storage is typically provisioned a server at a time.
Hierarchical storage management (HSM): Using IBM's DFHSM, mainframers have for years been able to automate the movement of data sets between different types of storage--a fast, expensive SAN, for example, vs. slower, more affordable tape. In the open-systems world, where different classes of storage often come from different vendors, automated HSM is rare. Vendors are only now promising information life cycle management (ILM), which incorporates many of the provisioning features common in the mainframe world.
Automated, policy-based backup: Mainframers can centrally create backup policies that can easily be applied to all data sets. This is just becoming available in the open-systems world.

Mainframe ahead of the game
There's little doubt, however, that open-systems storage management software has a lot to learn from the more mature and functional world of mainframe storage management. Take HSM, for example. Using tools such as IBM's Data Facility Hierarchical Storage Manager (DFHSM) on the mainframe, enterprises have been able to easily automate the process of migrating data between different performance classes of storage, depending on how often volumes of data are used and other parameters defined by the user. And IBM's

DFSMS systems-managed storage software supports the kind of policy-based storage management and provisioning toward which open-systems storage management software vendors are just beginning to move.

Mainframe storage managers usually achieve higher disk utilization rates than their open-systems counterparts, experts say.

"Right now in the open-systems SAN world, I don't have that kind of tool," says one storage manager who's getting better than 60% utilization on the mainframe and less than 50% on open systems. "There are some point products, but right now I don't have a strategic tool on the open-systems side for hierarchical storage management. Why shouldn't my mainframe tools at least have visibility into the open side so that we could start getting better disk utilization rates there?"

Actually, vendors are just beginning to make a few connections between the mainframe and open-systems management worlds. While software that would allow active management of both mainframe and open-systems arrays and fabric elements is rare, it's possible to find storage resource management tools that give some visibility into both open-systems and mainframe storage resources from a single console.

To take advantage of that, however, storage managers need to be willing to standardize on storage management software from a single vendor such as EMC Corp., HP or Hitachi Data Systems Inc. (HDS) in both mainframe and open environments or go with a relatively small storage management software provider.

Venture capital-backed TeraCloud Corp. in Bellevue, WA, is marketing a suite of storage resource management (SRM) tools that allow storage managers, from a single console across open-systems and mainframe environments, to report on disk utilization. Robert Bingham, chief marketing officer for TeraCloud, says that between 25% and 30% of TeraCloud's 200 customers are using the company's software to analyze storage utilization across mainframe and open environments.

Similarly, vendors such as EMC, HP, and HDS that offer arrays for mainframes as well as open-systems platforms, also provide a single console interface that lets administrators track conditions such as storage allocation and utilization on mainframe and open-platforms at the same time. EMC's Storage Scope product, for example, integrates with its ControlCenter storage management platform and allows for performance reporting and monitoring of EMC and non-EMC arrays attached to mainframes. And HP's OpenView Storage Area Manager software monitors mainframe storage performance while integrating with the company's CommandView management interface.

Vendors, however, acknowledge that such products don't come close to matching the depth of SRM monitoring and control functions available in native mainframe or open-systems tools.

"We can bring some SRM across the two environments, but the depth of monitoring information is not as strong as native environments," says Don Langeberg, director of marketing for storage software for HP. Langeberg says HP plans to beef up its OpenView Storage Area Management Software on the mainframe, eventually creating an interface that would allow storage software that uses the SMI-S standard.

This was first published in February 2004

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