IBM’s Data Storage as Fast as a ‘Shark’

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IBM Corp. Tuesday unveiled breakthrough storage products in its quest to
gain market share from storage standby EMC Corp., which has had its troubles in
recent months.

Big Blue plans to roll out a fiber channel-based connection (FICON) for
customers’ high-end disk systems, under the belt of its TotalStorage
Enterprise Storage Server, or “Shark”, as well as two new models of the IBM
TotalStorage Virtual Tape Server (VTS). Taken together, these technologies and products should increase the amount of data that customers can store, but will also speed up
data transfer.

With FICON, Shark can ramp up data transfer rates to 100 megabytes per second
(Mbps), compared with the 17 Mbps per second performance of the current
standard Enterprise Systems Connection (ESCON), a mainframe standard created
by Big Blue in 1990. IBM also enhanced Shark with the availability of a 24-gigabyte (GB) cache (as opposed to 8-, 16- or 32-bit) for increased

When used with Shark, IBM offers a FICON storage solution which enhances
performance, distance, and sharing, and reduces infrastructure costs by
allowing multiple ESCON channels to be replaced with a single FICON
channel. Basically, with FICON-based storage for mainframes customers may
connect mainframes directly to the same storage area networks (SANs)
used by UNIX and Windows/NT servers. While there isn’t total
interoperability, a common SAN infrastructure can ease the administration of
storage networks and enable customers to modify their requirements based on
what their businesses call for.

“FICON will deliver a significant boost to the performance of many mainframe
applications,” said John McArthur, vice president of storage research for

“As more and more enterprise customers are using Windows and Unix, we are
trying to address their requirements,” Chris Saul, marketing program
manager for IBM’s enterprise storage group, told
“Mainframe customers will be able to share storage without needing all sorts
of separate fibers and switches.”

IBM’s advantage, some analysts feel, is that it is the first to bring such a
solution to market; it’s due to hit the racks in September. John
Webster, an analyst with research firm Illuminata, told
that IBM’s move to bring FICON to the table will keep the rival wolves at
bay for bit, but that EMC and Hitachi would probably make aggressive moves
to counter Big Blue.

“IBM will have an advantage for the period of time in which EMC [and others]
cannot deliver similar solutions to customers,” Webster said. “I think IBM’s
customer base will find that this an attractive solution. Customers demand
mainframe solutions and it’s been a while since IBM refreshed their channel

As for the new virtual tape systems, the products are the
first of their kind to be powered by the technology titan’s copper chip
technology, effectively doubling storage performance. Copper, in lieu of
silicon, lowers power requirements and reduces total cost of ownership.

The two new TotalStorage Virtual Tape Server
(VTS) models, the B10 and B20, are the first storage tape drive products to
utilize IBM’s copper chip technology, which has been used in the firm’s hardware
servers aplenty. The VTS tape servers are fitted with IBM’s PowerPC
microprocessors, which are smaller, denser, faster and cooler than their
aluminum brothers.

As for the top competition it guns for, EMC Corp., it is thought that the Hopkinton,Mass.-based firm will be
on growth, margins
and pricing at analyst meetings this week.

Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor and a senior writer for covering IT leadership, the CIO role, and digital transformation.

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