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IBM refreshes mainframe storage

Alongside the introduction of its Z9 mainframe, IBM served up improvements to its PPRC global mirroring software, VTS and other mainframe storage products.

IBM unveiled its new mainframe, dubbed Z9, at a news conference in Manhattan Tuesday, and tacked on some mainframe storage news in the process.

The Z9 is the ninth generation of IBM's Z-series mainframes and is undergoing somewhat of a revival driven by consolidation and business continuance projects.

"The mainframe market is still huge," said Randy Kerns, an independent storage analyst. "Because the mainframe is so stable and reliable it has a lot of operational value and people are looking at these expenses … the long pole in the tent is really operational expenses these days, not capital expenses."

IBM's Z9 related storage announcements were a statement of intent, with no dates announced on when this new functionality will be available:

  • Integration between IBM's Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy (PPRC) global mirroring software for the mainframe and PPRC for open systems. This will mean users can recover data in a consistent way across both mainframe and open systems environments. These products have not worked together in the past.
  • IBM 3494 Virtual Tape Server (VTS) for the mainframe will support full duplex replication across three sites, instead of two. This means data can be replicated from a primary center to two backup sites. IBM has also enhanced the import and export capabilities of VTS so that tapes can be exchanged without affecting host processing.
  • SAN Volume Controller (SVC) support for Z-Linux will enable customers running Linux applications on the mainframe to use midrange storage, instead of being limited to expensive mainframe storage.
  • Virtualization Engine 2.0, IBM's management umbrella for all its virtualization products, will eventually enable users to add or partition massive amounts of computing, storage or networking capacity on the fly. The latest enhancements to the product were mainly on the server side, but IBM plans to integrate SVC under Virtualization Engine at some point.
  • Encryption of disk and tape storage by Z9 software will be available in November, 2005. Eventually this will find its way into the storage hardware itself, to offload the encryption processing from the mainframe. Analysts noted that IBM provided mainframe encryption back in the mid-70s but it proved to be too processor-intensive.
  • Continuous data protection (CDP) will be supported on the DS8000. Unlike Flash Copy, IBM's point-in-time copy software, the CDP capability will track and log every change to the data enabling users to recover from any point in time.
  • IBM demonstrated its DB2 database software running on a storage partition on the DS8000. The logic behind running the data close to the storage is to minimize I/O channel activity and improve performance, the company said.
  • Separately, IBM shed some more light on its OEM deal with Network Appliance Inc., (NetApp) announced back in April. SVC will be integrated with NetApp's V-Series virtualization product to provide NFS, CIFS and iSCSI support via the V-Series with block-based, heterogeneous support from SVC.

    The companies also announced that SVC and NetApp storage systems, as well as IBM's rebranded versions of these products will supports the Fibre Channel block protocol. SVC will also work with NetApp's RAID double parity software. The OEM deal is not expected to kick into gear until September.


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