Mainframe Cloud Storage Attracts Renewed Interest at Share

Maybe it was Share 2016, which runs through today in San Antonio that attracted both EMC and Oracle to introduce updated products that specifically target mainframe storage. Given that IBM has been struggling in the storage area, who would have guessed the newfound interest in mainframe storage. Or maybe these vendors sense a vulnerability.


Courtesy of EMC

EMC Corporation, for instance, announced new capabilities for its EMC VMAX and EMC Disk Library for mainframe storage products. With VMAX support for mainframe, in both the VMAX3 and the new VMAX All Flash products, mainframe shops can modernize, automate and consolidate disparate data center technologies within a simplified, high-performance data services platform. The additional capabilities of VMAX3 extend its automated performance tiering functionality to the mainframe.

The VMAX family, according to EMC, now offers twice the processing power in a third of the footprint for mainframe customers. Furthermore, in modernizing data protection for the mainframe, the company also announced what it refers to as the first-to-market scale-out automated snapshot solution for mainframe storage, called zDP (Data Protector for z Systems). It also announced updates to its EMC Disk Library for mainframe (DLm) technology that gives two virtual tape systems the ability to read from, write to, and update the

Not to be ignored at Share, Oracle announced its new StorageTek Virtual Storage Manager (VSM) 7 System, calling it the most secure and scalable data protection solution for mainframe and heterogeneous systems with the additional capability to provide fully automated tiering directly to the public cloud. Specifically, Oracle reports the StorageTek VSM 7 System delivers, 34x more capacity, significantly higher scalability to 256 StorageTek VSM 7 Systems, data deduplication, and native cloud tiering that provides mainframe and heterogeneous storage users the ability to access additional capacity on demand. Furthermore, Oracle’s StorageTek VSM 7 System has been architected to integrate with Oracle Storage Cloud Service—Object Storage and Oracle Storage Cloud Service – Archive Service to provide storage administrators with a built-in cloud strategy, making cloud storage as accessible as on-premises storage.

BTW, DancingDinosaur has not independently validated the specifications of either the new EMC or Oracle products. Links to their announcements are provided above should you want to perform further due diligence. Still, what we’re seeing here is that all enterprise data center systems vendors are sensing that with the growing embrace of cloud computing there is money to be made in modifying or augmenting their mainframe storage systems to accommodate cloud storage in a variety of ways. “Data center managers are starting to realize the storage potential of cloud, and the vendors are starting to connect the dots,” says Greg Schulz, principal of StorageIO.

Until recently cloud storage was not a first tier option for mainframe shops, in large part because cloud computing didn’t support FICON and still doesn’t.  “Mainframe data shops would have to piece together the cloud storage. Now, with so much intelligence built into the storage devices the necessary smart gateways, controllers, and bridges can be built in,” noted Schulz. Mainframe storage managers can put their FICON data in the cloud without the cloud specifically supporting FICON. What makes this possible is that all these capabilities are abstracted, same as  any software defined storage. Nobody on the mainframe side has to worry about anything; the vendors will take care of it through software or sometimes through firmware either in the data center storage device or in the cloud gateway or controller.

Along with cloud storage comes all the other goodies of the latest, most advanced storage, namely automated tiering and fast flash storage. For a mainframe data center, the cloud can simply be just one more storage tier, cheaper in some cases, faster but maybe a bit pricier (flash storage) in others. And flash, in terms of IOPS price/performance, shouldn’t be significantly more expensive if storage managers are using it appropriately.

IBM initially staked out the mainframe storage space decades ago, first on premises and later in the cloud. StorageTek and EMC certainly are not newcomers to mainframe storage. DancingDinosaur expects to see similar announcements from HDS any day now.

It’s telling that both vendors above–EMC, Oracle– specifically cited the mainframe storage although their announcements were primarily cloud focused. The strategy for mainframe storage managers at this point should be to leverage this rekindled interest in mainframe storage, especially mainframe storage in the cloud, to get the very best deals possible.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at and here.

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