Just when you think you're out of the mainframe world, you're pulled right back in.
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A recent push by IBM for its OS/390 mainframe users to migrate from ESCON connectivity to newer, more functional FICON technology has been joined by Hitachi Data Systems Corp.
Last week, Santa Clara, Calif.-headquarterd HDS announced the general availability of FICON (Fibre Connectivity) for the Hitachi Freedom Storage Lightning 9900 Series storage array. IBM was first to announce native FICON connectivity for its TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server --code named Shark-- and two models of its Virtual Tape Server (VTS) in late 2001.
Fibre connectivity provides peak data transfer rates almost six times faster than the current ESCON technology and IBM said it also relieves constraints on storage configurations, as it supports disk storage configurations up to six times larger than those supported by ESCON.
FICON is a high-speed input/output (I/O) interface for mainframe connections to storage devices. As part of IBM's S/390 server, FICON channels increase I/O capacity through the combination of a new architecture and faster physical link rates.
HDS said FICON delivers up to 100Mbps data transfer rates, expands the number of unit addresses per channel to 16,000 and increases the maximum distance to 10km, or 100km with extenders. The Lightning 9900 systems combined with FICON connectivity can consolidate the industry's highest storage capacity per controller.
Some in the industry believe the recent boom in storage area networks will bring about the end of the mainframe, but the legacy systems are entrenched in IT shops and are manned by die-hard users.
With its front-end applications starved for storage the Chicago Board of Options Exchange is migrating to a SAN environment this summer, but mainframe demand is still prevalent.
The CBOE's direction is off the mainframe, but the anomaly is that the mainframe keeps growing. "The mainframe is a historical repository," said Jeff Caldwell, director of systems storage and planning.
Automation is a real sticking point for the CBOE. While it is mature in mainframe environments, it's not yet up to par in the SAN world.
"On the mainframe we use [Hierarchical Storage Management]. It doesn't exist on open," Caldwell said.
"By adding FICON into our connectivity capabilities the 9900 product range can be connected to a much wider range of environments," said Phil Townsend, senior director of worldwide marketing for HDS.
"This brings a connectivity topology for our large install base of mainframe customers to migrate toward," he said.
Townsend said HDS already has a backlog of orders for FICON installs and that HDS expects the majority of its customers will migrate to FICON over the next 18 months.
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