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IBM's Shark stays afloat

Recent enhancements should keep Shark afloat for a while longer.

Despite its threatening nickname, IBM's Enterprise Storage System, or Shark, is rarely regarded as a serious threat to its competition from Hitachi and EMC. But recent enhancements should keep Shark afloat for a while longer in the treacherous waters of high-end storage.

The new Shark models consist of the 800 and 800 Turbo, and boast significant improvements in response time - 40%, IBM claims - thanks to new 2Gb/s FC connectivity, and two times the capacity. In and of themselves, these performance improvements are "nothing to write home about," says Arun Taneja, senior analyst at the Enterprise Storage Group - "this is a midlife kicker announcement from IBM."

But beyond performance, IBM has also improved Shark's disaster recovery features, says Dianne McAdam, analyst with Illuminata. For example, PPRC throughput has been improved by 2.5 times, and the time it takes to create a copy of your data using FlashCopy has been halved. Furthermore, Shark also now supports RAID 10 - mirroring and striping - whereas before it only supported RAID 5 (striping with distributed parity blocks).

Mirroring costs more than striping, says McAdam, but "customers are willing to pay more for protection."

Unfortunately, it's near impossible for analysts to gage Shark's performance against the Hitachi 9900 or Symmetrix, says McAdam, because vendors don't publish a benchmark.

Speaking of Symmetrix, rumor has it that EMC will release its next-generation box in Q1 2003. While the company would provide no concrete details about the new behemoth, the new high-end Sym will "comprise a new non-blocking interconnect ... and fully parallel architecture to enable the use of all internal bandwidth," a spokesperson said.

EMC has also upgraded its midtier FC4700 Clariion to the CX600, competing with HP's EVA line. Amidst hardware improvements such as additional CPUs and increased host connectivity, the CX600 also inherits a raft of new software. According to Jay Krone, director of Clariion marketing, its features are "looking more and more like what we see in the Symmetrix."

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