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IBM flexes mainframe storage muscles

IBM has fine tuned and bolstered connectivity options for its Shark storage system in an effort to tame the costs associated with mainframe storage.

IBM has dressed up its TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server, also known as Shark, with faster processors, more drive options and Fibre Channel connectivity to attract mainframe users looking for better performance, the company announced Tuesday.

IBM's Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy (PPRC), which previously required an ESCON interface, can now be done over Fibre Channel meaning Shark can move data at a faster rate over fewer channels than before.

Jim Tuckwell, IBM's marketing manager for the Shark product line, said Shark has been clocked at eight times the throughput rate over Fibre Channel as opposed to traditional ESCON links. "The number of channels a customer will need has been effectively cut in half. [Users] will save on infrastructure costs."

Also on IBM's upgrade list is a standards-based Copy Services application and a new Turbo II processor that is designed to make ESS transactions up to 30% faster than is possible on a base model Shark 800, Tuckwell said.

"The performance boost will be most effectively realized by the high-end, heavy hitter mainframe workloads," said John Webster, founder and senior analyst for Nashua, N.H.-based Data Mobility Group Inc.

"Mainframe users can now use [a Fibre Channel] infrastructure instead of ESCON or FICON for PPRC. Fibre Channel support will allow them to greatly reduce the number of links required to achieve equivalent bandwidth," he said.

Webster added that management of Shark arrays attached to both z/OS and open systems can now be done through a mainframe interface.

The Shark enhancements will be made generally available through IBM and its business partners on Nov. 21, 2003.

IBM isn't the only mainframe storage game in town. Last week, the company struck a licensing deal with Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp., which will license technology from Big Blue to improve and extend compatibility for IBM mainframe users with EMC storage systems.

IBM has licensed interfaces for its TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server to EMC so that Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy (PPRC) and Extended Remote Copy (XRC) functions will be compatible with the Symmetrix DMX. Other IBM features, like FlashCopy, Multiple Allegiance and Parallel Access Volumes (PAV), are included in the licensing agreement and will also work on Symmetrix systems.

IBM maintains that its new connectivity options and Turbo II processor give Shark a leg up on Symmetrix in terms of speed and cost.

EMC spokesperson Chuck Hollis said that mainframe customers will be first to benefit from the agreement. "Historically, EMC has provided compatibility engineering as IBM rolled out new features for the mainframe. Through this licensing agreement we'll be able to [roll out features at the same pace]."

IBM and EMC will also tighten product support and testing for joint customers.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail: Kevin Komiega, News Editor

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