Posts Tagged ‘EMC’

IBM Insists Storage is Generating Positive Revenue

May 19, 2017

At a recent quarterly briefing on the company’s storage business, IBM managers crowed over its success: 2,000 new Spectrum Storage customers, 1,300 new DS8880 systems shipped, 1500 PB of capacity shipped, 7% revenue gain Q1’17. This appeared to contradict yet another consecutive losing quarter in which only IBM’s Cognitive Solutions (includes Solutions Software and Transaction Processing Software) posted positive revenue.

However, Martin Schroeter, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (1Q’17 financials here), sounded upbeat about IBM storage in the quarterly statement: Storage hardware was up seven percent this quarter, led by double-digit growth in our all-flash array offerings. Flash contributed to our Storage revenue growth in both midrange and high-end. In storage, we continue to see the shift in value towards software-defined environments, where we continue to lead the market. We again had double-digit revenue growth in Software-Defined Storage, which is not reported in our Systems segment. Storage software now represents more than 40 percent of our total storage revenue.

IBM Flash System A9000

Highly parallel all-flash storage for hyperscale and cloud data centers

Schroeter continued: Storage gross margins are down, as hardware continues to be impacted by price pressure. To summarize Systems, our revenue and gross profit performance were driven by expected cycle declines in z Systems and Power, mitigated by Storage revenue growth. We continue to expand our footprint and add new capabilities, which address changing workloads. While we are facing some shifting market dynamics and ongoing product transitions, our portfolio remains uniquely optimized for cognitive and cloud computing.

DancingDinosaur hopes he is right.  IBM has been signaling a new z System coming for months, along with enhancements to Power storage. Just two weeks ago IBM reported achievements with Power and Nvidia, as DancingDinosaur covered at that time.

If there was any doubt, all-flash storage is the way IBM and most other storage providers are heading for the performance and competitive economics. In January IBM announced three all flash DS888* all flash products, which DancingDinosaur covered at the time here. Specifically:

  • DS8884 F (the F designates all flash)—described by IBM as performance delivered within a flexible and space-saving package
  • DS8886 F—combines performance, capacity, and cost to support a variety of workloads and applications
  • DS8888 F—promises performance and capacity designed to address the most demanding business workload requirements

The three products are intended to provide the speed and reliability needed for workloads ranging from enterprise resource planning (ERP) and financial transactions to cognitive applications like machine learning and natural language processing. Doubt that a lot of mainframe data centers are doing much with cognitive systems yet, but that will be coming.

Spectrum Storage also appears to be looming large in IBM’s storage plans. Spectrum Storage is IBM’s software defined storage (SDS) family of products. DancingDinosaur covered the latest refresh of the suite of products this past February.

The highlights of the recent announcement included the addition of Cloud Object Storage and a version of Spectrum Virtualize as software only.  Spectrum Control got a slew of enhancements, including new cloud-based storage analytics for Dell EMC VNX, VNXe, and VMAX; extended capacity planning views for external storage, and transparent cloud tiering for IBM Spectrum Scale.  The on-premises editions added consolidated chargeback/showback and support for Dell EMC VNXe file storage. This should make it clear that Spectrum Storage is not only for underlying IBM storage products.

Along the same lines, Spectrum Storage added VMware 6 support and the certified vSphere Web client. In the area of cloud object storage, IBM added native NFS access, enhance STaaS multi-tenancy, IPV6 support, and preconfigured bundles.

IBM also previewed enhancements coming in 2Q’17.   Of specific interest to DancingDinosaur readers will likely be  the likely updates to the FlashSystem and VeraStack portfolio.

The company is counting on these enhancements and more to help pull IBM out of its tailspin. As Schroeter wrote in the 1Q’17 report: New systems product introductions later in the year will drive improved second half performance as compared to the first. Hope so; already big investors are cashing out. Clients, however, appear to be staying for now.

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


IBM’s Latest Flash Announcements Target Dell/EMC

August 26, 2016

The newest IBM storage, announced here earlier this week, aims to provide small, midsize, and global enterprises with virtualized SDS for primary storage and for cloud or cognitive applications and workloads. Central to the effort is IBM Spectrum Virtualize, which automates Storwize all-flash solutions intended to reduce the cost and complexity of data center and cloud environments. Entry pricing for the new storage starts at $19,000, which IBM describes as cost-conscious.storwize logo

IBM All-Flash for the midrange

In addition, IBM announced Flash In, a no-cost storage migration program targeting Dell/EMC customers that IBM hopes will bail out of the merged operation.

SDS in the form of IBM Spectrum Virtualize is central to making IBM’s latest all-flash offerings work for the broad set of use cases IBM envisions.  As IBM puts it: organizations today are embracing all-flash storage to deliver speed and response times necessary to support growing data workloads across public, private, and hybrid cloud environments, as well as the emerging demands of cognitive applications and workloads.

IBM Spectrum Virtualize promises to improve storage efficiency through features such as real-time data compression, thin provisioning, and snapshotting across nearly 400 different storage arrays from a multitude of vendors. That means organizations can leverage, even repurpose, physical storage capacity they already have as they scramble to meet the storage needs of new workloads.

Spectrum Virtualize also optimizes data security, reliability and operational costs. For example, the software automatically tiers and migrates data from one storage array to another, provides secure data-at-rest encryption, and remotely replicates data for disaster recovery and business continuity

The announcement centers around two products, the enterprise-class IBM Storwize V7000F and a midsize IBM Storwize 5030F,  which promise enterprise-class availability and function in a mid-range and entry-level all-flash storage array.  At the same time, both offer greater performance and require less time to provision and optimize systems. Coincidentally, IBM has just been recognized, for the third year in a row as a leader for Flash Storage in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays (SSA).

Specifically, the all-flash IBM Storwize V7000F improves performance by up to 45 percent and supports four times the clustering for scale-out and scale-up growth to help organizations manage rapidly growing datasets.  The midrange and entry level all flash IBM Storwize 5030F offers high performance and availability at a discounted entry point (noted above) to help clients control costs.

The all-flash Storwize V7000F and Storwize V5030F are also built to manage a variety of primary storage workloads, from database management systems, such as SQL Server and MySQL, to digital media sources that include broadcast, real-time streaming, and video surveillance. The new technology can also handle huge data volumes, such as IoT data.

Given the product line confusion that typically characterizes big technology platform mergers, IBM is looking to entice some Dell or, more likely, EMC storage customers to the new Storwize offerings. To that end, IBM is offering what it describes as a no-cost migration initiative for organizations that are not current IBM customers and seeking a smooth transition path from their EMC or Dell storage to the IBM family of all-flash arrays. BTW: EMC is a leading provider of z System storage.

While too early to spot any Dell or EMC customer response, one long time IBM customer, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, has joined the flash storage party. “With ever increasing volumes of customer and operational information, flexible and secure data storage is crucial to keeping our operation afloat (hope the pun was intended) as our company expands to hundreds of destinations worldwide,” said Leonardo Irastorza, Technology Revitalization & Global Shared Services Manager. The cruise line is counting on IBM flash storage to play a critical role, especially when it comes to ensuring exceptional guest experiences across its brands.

And more is coming: IBM released the following statement of direction: IBM intends to enhance IBM Spectrum Virtualize with additional capabilities for flash drive optimization and management. These capabilities are intended to help increase the service life and usability of flash drives, particularly read-intensive flash drives. The planned capabilities will likely include:

  • Data deduplication for workloads and use cases where it complements IBM’s existing industry leading compression technology
  • Improved flash memory management (mainly for garbage collection)
  • Additional flash drive wear management and reporting.

By implementing these capabilities in IBM Spectrum Virtualize they will be available for IBM Storwize family, FlashSystem V9000, and SAN Volume Controller offerings as well as VersaStack (the IBM/Cisco collaboration) and IBM PurePower systems.

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.


Mainframe Cloud Storage Attracts Renewed Interest at Share

March 4, 2016

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.

IBM z System Shines in 3Q15 Quarterly Report

October 23, 2015

IBM posted another down quarter this past Monday, maybe the thirteenth in a row; it’s easy to lose track. But yet again, the IBM z System provided a bright spot, a 15 percent increase compared with the year-ago period. Last quarter the z also came up a winner. Still the investment analysts went crazy, the stock tumbled, and wild scenarios, inspired by Dell’s acquisition of EMC no doubt, began circulating.


IBM z13

However, don’t expect IBM to be going away anytime soon. DancingDinosaur is a technology analyst and writer, absolutely not a financial analyst (his wife handles the checkbook).  If you look at what has been going on in the past two years with z System and POWER from a technology standpoint these platforms are here for the long haul.  Most of the top 100 companies rely on a mainframe.  Linux on z has become a factor in roughly 70 percent of the leading shops. When DancingDinosaur last ran the numbers there still are about 5000-6000 active mainframe shops and the numbers aren’t dropping nearly as fast as some pundits would have you believe.



The z13 and LinuxONE are very powerful mainframes, the most powerful by any number of measures in the industry.  And they are a dramatically different breed of enterprise platform, capable of concurrently running mixed workloads—OLTP, mobile, cloud, analytics—with top performance, scalability, and rock solid security. The Open Mainframe Project in conjunction with the Linux Foundation means that IBM no longer is going it alone with the mainframe. A similar joint effort with the Open POWER Consortium began delivering results within a year.

The Dell-EMC comparison is not a valid one. EMC’s primary business was storage and the business at the enterprise level has changed dramatically. It has changed for IBM too; the company’s revenues from System Storage decreased 19 percent. But storage was never as important to the company as the z, which had long been its cash cow, now diminished for sure but still worth the investment. The dozens and dozens of acquisitions EMC made never brought it much in terms of synergy. IBM, at least, has its strategic imperatives plan that is making measurable progress.

IBM’s strategic imperatives, in fact, were the only business that was doing as well as the z. Strategic imperatives revenue: up 27 percent year-to-year; Cloud revenue up more than 65 percent year-to-date.  Total cloud revenue hit $9.4 billion over the trailing 12 months. Cloud delivered as a service had an annual run rate of $4.5 billion vs. $3.1 billion in third-quarter 2014.  Business analytics revenue was up 19 percent year-to-date. Be interesting to see what cognitive computing and Watson can produce.

Besides storage, the other dim spot in the IBM platform story is Power Systems.  Revenues from Power Systems were down 3 percent compared with the 2014 period. DancingDinosaur, long a fan of Power Systems, anticipates the platform will turn positive next quarter or the first quarter of 2016 as some of the new technology and products coming, in part, from the Open POWER Consortium begin to attract new customers and ring up sales. The new Power Systems LC Server family should attract interest for hybrid Cloud, Hyperscale Data Centers, and Open Solutions, hopefully bringing new customers. With online pricing starting around $6600 the LC machines should be quite competitive against x86 boxes of comparable capabilities.

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.


EMC World and IBM Edge 2013 Spotlight Mainframe Storage

May 6, 2013

Two major technology conferences this spring are converging on Las Vegas and each offers session tracks on mainframe storage. EMC World runs today through May 9, and IBM Edge 2013, June 10-14; each will bring enough expert material to divert mainframe storage managers from the gaming tables.

At neither show is the mainframe the primary focus, but considerable material still addresses mainframe storage. For example, EMC World, which opens today offers sessions like:

VMAX Performance: Mainframe Performance with Symmetrix VMAX & Enginuity 5876. Here’s how EMC describes it—Symmetrix VMAX 20K and VMAX 40K running Enginuity 5876 introduce several performance improvements and new features for the Mainframe, which can affect how customers deploy. DancingDinosaur reported on the introduction of the VMAX 40K here last year.

VMAX: What’s New for Mainframe Symmetrix Environments Plus an Update on the EMC & IBM Partnership.  Of particular interest to DancingDinosaur readers may be the details on how EMC develops IBM-compatible technology and EMC’s long-standing working relationship with IBM

DancingDinosaur will miss EMC World and be attending IBM Edge 2013 instead. Please join this blogger at Edge 2013; when not attending a session you can find me where bloggers congregate in the Social Media Lounge.

Here are some of the sessions that look particularly interesting:

IBM z/OS Storage Management Ecosystem Update—provides an overview of IBM’s strategy for managing the z/OS storage ecosystems.  Learn how the strategic z/OS storage management product, OMEGAMON XE for Storage, fits into the strategy and how the rest of the Tivoli z/OS Storage management portfolio works together to address common z/OS storage tasks and problem resolution. The session also promises to include a short review of Tivoli z/VM storage products.

IBM z/OS + DS8K Synergy—offers an overview of the IBM DS8000 architecture and its deep integration with IBM z/OS to deliver performance, high availability, optimization, and manageability. No other storage system has the unique integration with the IBM mainframe, according to IBM.  That becomes particularly apparent when you start looking at Flash storage.

Introduction to the TS7700 Virtualization Engine Grid for the Uninitiated or Those Needing a Refresher—intended to introduce attendees to the IBM TS7700 Virtualization Engine, a virtualized tape solution. This basic level discussion will start by explaining why tape virtualization came about, and then cover basic and advanced concepts, up through the latest enhancements.  If you are not already familiar with virtual tape you don’t want to miss this.

Retention management is an increasingly important and tricky topic these days, particularly as it ties in with compliance and even legal ediscovery. Edge 2013 offers two complementary sessions on retention management.

Untangling Retention Management under DFSMSrmm—DFSMS Removable Media Manager (DFSMSrmm) delivers a wide variety of retention controls for the z/OS tape resources it manages. Often the variety of options and the differences in how they behave can be confusing. The session promises to explain how and why DFSMSrmm does what it does so attendees can make the best decisions for their environment.

DFSMSrmm Best Practices, Features and New Stuff—DFSMS Removable Media Manager (DFSMSrmm) is one of the most regularly enhanced tape management systems in the market. Often, however, new features are overlooked. This session offers an overview of key product features that every DFSMSrmm data center should be taking full advantage of to properly safeguard their environments. In addition, it will detail several little-known product capabilities that can streamline administrator efficiency, allowing more time for other management activities.

Overall, IBM Edge 2013 will offer over 140 storage sessions, over 50 PureSystems sessions, more than 50 client case studies, and sessions on big data and analytics along with a full cloud track.

Full disclosure: this blogger’s trip to Edge 2013 and related DancingDinosaur posts are being underwritten by IBM.  However, the choice of content, ideas, and opinions …even the mention of EMC… are my own. Hope to see you at Edge 2013. Find me in  the Social Media Lounge.

EMC Introduces New Mainframe VTL

August 16, 2012

EMC introduced the high end DLm8000, the latest in its family of VTL products. This one is aimed for large enterprise mainframe environments and promises to ensure consistency of data at both production and recovery sites and provide the shortest possible RPO and RTO for critical recovery operations.

It is built around EMC VMAX enterprise storage and its SRDF replication and relies on synchronous replication to ensure immediate data consistency between the primary and target storage by writing the data simultaneously at each. Synchronous replication addresses the potential problem latency mismatch that occurs with the usual asynchronous replication, where a lag between writes to the primary and to the backup target storage can result in inconsistent data.

Usually this mismatch exists for a brief period. EMC suggests the issue, especially for large banks and financial firms—its key set of mainframe target customers—is much more serious. Large financial organizations with high transaction volume, EMC notes, have historically faced recovery challenges because their mainframe tape and DASD data at production and secondary sites were never fully in synch.  As such, recovery procedures often slowed until the differences between the two data sets were resolved, which slowed the resulting failover.  This indeed may be a real issue but for only a small number of companies, specifically those that need an RTO and RPO of just about zero.

EMC used the introduction of the DLm8000 to beat up tape backup in general. Physical tape transportation by third party records management companies, EMC notes, hinders recovery efforts by reducing what it refers to as the granularity of RPOs while dramatically increasing the RTO.  In addition, periodic lack of tape drive availability for batch processing and for archive and backup applications can impair SLAs, further increasing the risks and business impact associated with unplanned service interruptions. That has been long recognized, but, remember EMC is a company that sells disk, not tape storage, and ran a Tape Sucks campaign after its purchase of Data Domain. What would you expect them to say? 

The DLm8000 delivers throughput of up to 2.7 GB/s, which it claims is 2.5x the performance of its nearest competitor. DancingDinosaur can’t validate that claim, but EMC does have a novel approach to generating the throughput. The DLm8000 is packed with eight Bus-Tech engines (acquired in its acquisition of Bus-Tech in Nov. 2010) and it assigns two FICON connections to each engine for a total of 16 FICON ports cranking up the throughput. No surprise they can aggregate that level of throughput.

EMC has not announced pricing for the DLm8000. The device, however, is the top of its VTL lineup and VMAX enterprise storage tops its storage line. With high throughput and synchronous replication, this product isn’t going to be cheap. However, if you need near zero RPO and RTO then you have only a few choices.

Foremost among those choices should be the IBM TS7700 family, particularly the 7740 and the 7720. Both of these systems provide VTL connectivity. The TS7700 avoids the latency mismatch issue by using a buffer to get the most optimal write performance and then periodically synch primary and target data. “Synchronous as EMC does it for VTL is overkill,” says an IBM tape manager. The EMC approach essentially ignores the way mainframe tape has been optimized.

Among the other choices are the Oracle Virtual Storage Manager and Virtual Library Extension. Oracle uses StorageTek tape systems. The Oracle approach promises to improve tape drive operating efficiencies and lower TCO by optimizing tape drive and library resources through a disk-based virtual tape architecture. HDS also has a mainframe tape backup and VTL product that uses Luminex technology.

EMC is a disk storage company and its DLm8000 demonstrates that. When it comes to backup, however, mainframe shops are not completely averse to tape. Disk-oriented VTL has some advantages but don’t expect mainframe shops to completely abandon tape.

In breaking storage news, IBM today announced acquiring Texas Memory Systems (TMS), a long established (1978) Texas company that provides solid state memory to deliver significantly faster storage throughput and data access while consuming less power. TMS offers its memory as solid state disk (SSD) through its RamSan family of shared rackmount systems and Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) cards. SSD may be expensive on a cost per gigabyte basis but it blows away spinning hard disk on a cost per IOPS. Expect to see IBM to use TMS’s SSD across its storage products as one of its key future storage initiatives, as described by Jai Menon, CTO and VP, Technical Strategy for IBM Systems and Technology Group (STG), at last June’s Storage Edge 2012 conference. BottomlineIT, DancingDinosaur’s sister blog, covered it here back in June. BTW, Edge 2013 already is scheduled for June 10-14 in Las Vegas.


May 23, 2012

EMC introduced the latest addition to its top mainframe Symmetrix storage, the VMAX 40K, which can scale to 4PB and is intended for extreme scalable environments. EMC claims the new device will deliver up to 3X more performance and more than 2X more usable capacity than any other offering in the industry. By configuring it with 2.5″ SAS drives and MLC (eMLC) Flash drives the device can also deliver the most densely packed storage.

The VMAX 40K, according to EMC, can store 60% more data than the Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform and 74% more than the IBM System Storage DS8000. The DS8000 today has a maximum capacity of 2.3PB. The Hitachi VSP tops out at 2.5PB.

If sheer capacity is the only issue, last summer word got out that IBM’s Almaden Lab delivered a 120PB array consisting of 200,000 SAS disk drives (rather than SATA) to ensure better performance for an unnamed client. Reports at that time also suggested the giant array was using IBM’s new General Parallel File System (GPFS), capable of indexing 10 billion files in just 43 minutes. The client and the use case have not been identified but the specs clearly suggest an extreme Big Data analytics situation.

For general enterprise computing as done by mainframe shops there is more to storage than just sheer capacity.  For zEnterprise shops, the issue is how well optimized the EMC storage is for other parts of the System z.  The zEnterprise already is highly optimized across its memory, processors, firmware, and networks as well as DS8000 storage.

As of the first quarter of this year IBM reports that the DS8000 supported the following capabilities that the EMC Symmetrix does not:

  • Dynamic Volume Expansion
  • Basic Hyper Swap
  • zHPF—QSAM, BSAM, BPAM, format writes, DB2 list prefetch cache optimization
  • Sub-volume tiering for CKD volumes
  • zDAC performance optimization
  • IMS WADS enhanced performance
  • Workload Manager I/O performance support
  • Metro Mirror suspension –message aggregation

If these capabilities are used in your data center, then the new EMC storage won’t work without extra effort on your part no matter how much capacity it delivers.

The VMAX 40K, however, does offer some nifty features, such as new Federated Tiered Storage (FTS) for VMAX through which external arrays can be used either as capacity pools for FAST VP (Fully Automated Storage Tiering for Virtual Pools) or managed as pass-through devices. FAST VP also now supports the System z and IBM i servers. Of course, IBM already delivers such storage tiering through EasyTier.

It is hard to assess how the VMAX 40K will work in the mainframe environment based on the spec sheet.  And without pricing and workload benchmark data it is not possible to make an accurate assessment.

Still EMC rivals are decidedly cool. To HP, for instance, the VMAX 40K looks like a typical EMC midlife kicker; nothing surprising here, said an HP manager. He added that this does not change the fact that the EMC architecture is aging, and it doesn’t fundamentally change the economics of VMAX. HP, he notes, is beating VMAX head to head more and more with 3PAR based on its architectural advantage and newer technology. The HP mainframe storage is a Hitachi box, the P9500 XP Disk Array.

An IBMer, similarly, described the VMAX 40K as a business-as-usual, next-generation disk system announcement with new hardware and a few new functions.  It still doesn’t appear to address the unsupported z capabilities noted above. The new EMC storage doesn’t do enough to offset advantages DS8000 offers mainframe shops today.

The introduction of the VMAX 40K, however, raises a larger question.  In an increasingly scale-out world (as opposed to scale-up), do enterprises really need to load multi-petabytes of storage into a single frame?  IBM recently boosted its SmartCloud offerings for enterprise computing.  Will IBM put the zEnterprise and DS8000 storage up there too?

Virtualized Storage Comes to the zEnterprise/zBX

March 27, 2012

Huh? Mainframe storage has been virtualized for decades. In a presentation at the latest SHARE gathering, however, Dave Lytle from Brocade and Bill Smith from Hitachi Data Systems gave a joint presentation about bringing virtual storage to the z.

In the presentation they explained how the Brocade DCX 8510 Backbone switch combined with the Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) provide an alternative for mainframe-attached storage environments.  They aren’t suggesting you replace the workhorse DS8000 mainframe storage but, rather, augment it.

They call for an open virtualized storage infrastructure that makes it possible to deploy lower cost storage devices in conjunction with automated data tiering to lower the overall total cost of storage.  The cost savings result from shifting more of the storage to slower but less expensive open systems storage through the Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform (VSP).  When a piece of data needs the faster, more costly primary z storage, the automation brings it back. Without the automation, this would be a slow, error-prone operation that almost nobody would bother with.

The promise, say Lytle and Smith, is faster deployment of new applications and non-disruptive re-deployment of storage assets between mainframe and open system environments. This kind of dynamic tiering already has gained traction in the open systems world.  Even the big mainframe storage players, IBM and EMC, have products there. IBM has the automated System Storage Easy Tier offering and EMC brings its Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST) product.

In addition to the HDS VSP offering the approach described by Lytle and Smith is built around a new 16 Gbps Fibre Channel Brocade DCX 8510 Backbones switching infrastructure. According to Brocade, they match the industry’s fastest and most scalable System z mainframes with the highest-performing and most reliable FICON infrastructure to maximize consolidation and virtualization of traditional mainframe and emerging Linux and Windows workloads. All the while they simplifying fabric management for FICON and Fibre Channel intermix environments. The Brocade DCX 8510 directors have been qualified for mainframe environments, allowing enterprises to fully exploit the capabilities of the IBM zEnterprise FICON infrastructure.

The reference to traditional mainframe and emerging Linux and Windows workloads sounds like the zEnterprise/zBX combination. Basically, you should be able to connect your lower cost, lower performing open system storage for use with your zBX Windows blades and manage it all through the z.  DancingDinosaur sees some definite cost, efficiency, and convenience advantages in that alone while providing one more reason for organizations to consider the zBX with Windows blades.

The Brocade and HDS products do boast some impressive capabilities.  The Brocade FICON product offers a simultaneous send-and-receive 16Gbps line rate on all chassis ports concurrently (no blocking), five-nines (99.999%) availability, and 4x improvement in energy efficiency over competitive switches.

The HDS VSP is fully mainframe compatible. It provides frontend and backend directors, cache, and processors to handle time-sensitive processing tasks and supports multiple types of disk drive (SSD, SAS and SATA) to meet a variety of performance and cost requirements. The virtual storage directors and cache combine to deliver performance throughput of over 1 million IOP/s with full FICON support.

The issue of connecting zEnterprise and open systems storage for the purposes of tiering is just ramping up.  Lytle and Smith report plans already underway for the next SHARE gathering (Aug. 5-10, 2012) in Anaheim, CA.  The MVS group at SHARE apparently is preparing to bring IBM, EMC, and HDS together to talk about tiering on the mainframe.

Hot Summer for System z Storage

September 5, 2011

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.

Brick and mortar IBM commitment to System z

May 17, 2010

Do you worry about the future of the System z and mainframes in general? I did until I saw an IBM press release in April about opening a new 56,000 sq. ft., $30 million manufacturing facility in Poughkeepsie to produce the next generation of System z mainframes and high-end Power Systems servers. By the time that facility is obsolete and ready to be shuttered, I should be long gone.

With IBM making that kind of investment in bricks and mortar on behalf of the System z, the company clearly expects the z to hang around for many more years. I don’t know what the depreciation schedule is on a new high tech manufacturing facility, but it must be longer than the usual 3-5 years for IT investments, lots longer.

Yet, there has been surprisingly little comment in the press about the announcement. Instead, there continues the stream of mainframe-is-dead pieces. The most recent, reported by Joe Clabby for Pund-IT, recounted Gartner’s advice to abandon the z in favor of x86-based servers. But as Joe pointed out, Gartner had some conflicts of interest, leaving them as anything but an unbiased advisor when it comes to mainframe computing.

The latest generation of Intel and AMD multi-core x86-based processors has generated a flood of articles predicting that the x86 architecture will dominate enterprise computing going forward. Last week at EMC World, EMC CEO Joe Tucci repeatedly declared the x86 architecture the wave of the future and would be the processor EMC would base all its products on now and in the future. The x86 processor was the future not only for EMC but everyone, everywhere.

Tucci obviously hadn’t noticed what Apple is doing. In January Apple brought out its own CPU, from a chip manufacturer it had previously acquired, to power the iPOD and iPAD. Sorry Joe, given the number of those devices Apple is selling there will be a considerable chunk of the world that does sophisticated computing and communications (and video and audio…) without an x86 processor.

The x86 architecture clearly isn’t the only game in town. In addition to Apple’s A4, IBM revved its POWER chip architecture and introduced systems based on the new POWER7 chip. These AIX and Linux machines are putting up impressive benchmarks. Even Sun/Oracle may be bringing out a new SPARC chip. Although the company appears to be somewhat vague about that if it wants to stay in the large enterprise computing game it will have to come up with a new SPARC chip or IBM and HP will continue to pick off its customers and VARs.

And then there is the next generation System z, dubbed the Hybrid z in briefings earlier this year. It apparently will be based on a highly optimized POWER7 multi-core architecture too. The mainframe is not likely to cede any performance to the new x86 processors, whether from Intel or AMD.

As IBM stated in its new factory announcement, “The facility is designed to handle the next generation of systems and [deliver] the capacity and flexibility to manufacture future products. The first products for customers are expected to roll off the assembly line later this year.” Just in time for the hybrid System z.

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