Hot Summer for System z Storage

Storage will become increasingly important in mainframe shops, especially as they carve out a role in virtualized, private clouds, and August will go down as a hot month for mainframe storage.  EMC kicked off August by announcing a new virtual tape library for IBM z/OS environments followed a few days later by announcing new virtual storage capabilities for its Symmetrix VMAX for z/VM environments.

IBM jumped in just this past week by revealing various storage-related research initiatives for archiving, scale out file systems, storage clouds, SSD-based systems, and more. The company, however, has been introducing new storage, much of it applicable to the mainframe, all year.

EMC clearly plans to target IBM in the mainframe storage market. Early in August it introduced a new mainframe disk library it described as the first integrated solution for all tape use cases. The new disk library takes advantage of features in Data Domain, EMC’s deduplication line, and EMC VNX (unified storage for block, file, and object-based data).

The disk library, the DLm6000, enables mainframe users to minimize their storage and replication costs and dramatically improve their disaster recovery capabilities. EMC says it will address the full range of mainframe tape workloads with a single, consolidated all-disk system. By matching different workloads to the most appropriate storage, the DLm6000 also promises to maximize system performance and accelerate data retrievals and backup and recovery times.

EMC also announced new software for its Symmetrix VMAX family of storage systems, which will enhance virtual data center and cloud storage capabilities. Of particular interest is the new version of EMC AutoSwap software, which now supports z/VM environments, effectively expanding Symmetrix VMAX-based solutions for all of the major virtual machine operating systems. The new EMC GDDR (Geographically Dispersed Disaster Restart) for z/VM allows continuous availability and improved protection for virtualized mainframe environments.

IBM hasn’t exactly been twiddling its thumbs when it comes to enterprise storage. It enhanced DS8700 and DS8800 storage systems as well as SAN Volume Controller (SVC). At a recent storage research briefing IBM identified initiatives in both bit and logical data preservation and other enhancements to archiving. Other initiatives are looking at data density and data retention. A 50-year retention period is the latest goal; 100 years shouldn’t be far off. Similarly, IBM is aiming to pack 1 petabyte (PB) of data into a 1u slot; guess how much fits in a standard 40u rack. Behind much of IBM’s latest storage initiatives is its General Parallel File System (GPFS)

Maybe the most interesting IBM storage announcement this summer was XIV Gen 3. XIV focuses on storage for distributed systems but connects to the System z through z/VM via FC switches or SVC. XIV storage also can be accessed by z/VM guests through guest-attached FCP subchannels provided the applicable FCP multi-path driver is available. XIV should be of most interest with a heterogeneous Linux environment including Linux on z.

XIV may be IBM’s most innovative storage. It’s fully autonomic, meaning it can pretty much run itself. It is based on a grid design that connects a set of modules, each containing a powerful processor, memory, and storage. Multiple modules connect to create a seamless scalable storage grid. This design delivers predictable, sustained high performance storage with little or no intervention on the part the staff. Plus, it brings a slew of high reliability and availability capabilities. It also scales in near linear fashion: adding an XIV module increases storage capacity along with more CPU and RAM. Automatic rebalancing ensures load balance is maintained regardless of adding, deleting, or resizing volumes after new disk/module additions and even after a system component failure or during rebuild.

Watch DancingDinosaur for more enterprise storage info in the coming months.

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