EMC Supercharges Mainframe Tape

How serious is EMC about competing in the mainframe tape space? Take a look at the latest release of its Disk Library for mainframe to see how the company is upping the ante.

With its acquisition last November of mainframe virtual tape library (VTL) specialist Bus-Tech Inc., EMC Corp. signaled how serious it was about competing in the mainframe tape market.

The latest release of its Disk Library for mainframe (DLm), which is based on technology EMC acquired via Bus-Tech, shows the company is clearly not standing still.

EMC's DLm 6000, now in its third iteration,supports backup speeds of up to 2 GB/s, accommodates as many as 1,500 VTLs, and supports up to 12 FICON channels for Parallel Sysplex. Tape drive contention, EMC officials maintain, is effectively a thing of the past. So, too, are protracted request intervals, which -- in the context of hierarchical storage management (HSM), especially -- tended to be both frequent and frustrating.

"The key is concurrent mixed storage flexibility. You can connect a DLm to [include] both EMC VMX storage and [EMC] Data Domain [storage] concurrently within the DLm itself," says Jim O'Connor, director of product marketing with Bus-Tech.

Flexibility comes by way of enhanced performance, scalability, and manageability.

"Now we can offer performance [of] over 2 GB/s [and] increased scalability -- we can now scale to 5.7 PB of logical capacity. We've also integrated z/OS console support, so you can manage everything from the management console, whereas in previous generations you had to go to -- sometimes you might even have to search for -- the DLM console itself," he says.

O'Connor contrasts the DLm 6000's all-in-one flexibility with those of EMC's competitors. In the case of storage from mainframe maker IBM Corp., he claims, customers would have to purchase at least two and possibly three separate offerings -- i.e., physical tape, virtual tape, and/or data deduplication technology -- to match the versatility of the DLm 6000.

One pilot customer -- an un-named health-care company -- has used the new DLm 6000 to reduce wait times associated with HSM recalls from 90 seconds to 1 second, O'Connor maintains. "That was 60 hours of lost productivity per day," he observes. "They figure [they're realizing] almost half a million dollars in annual savings and personnel costs alone."

In the past, EMC seemed to want to avoid getting its fingers dirty in the mainframe tape market. For example, it had partnered with Bus-Tech for the better part of six years. Three years ago, that company became an EMC OEM partner. More to the point, EMC's acquisition occurred at a time -- Q4 of 2010 -- during which mainframe sales broke several records.

EMC wasn't exactly buying low. What prompted it to buy after more than half a decade of licensing or OEM-ing technology to help flesh out its own mainframe tape offerings?

Bus-Tech's O'Connor says that mostly it has to do with the health of the mainframe itself -- and with the upside of a mainframe tape market that (per research from market-watcher International Data Corp.) is expected to generate $2.5 billion in revenues over the next four years.

"When I joined Bus-Tech in 1990, I thought I had about a five year run, at most. I believed those stories that the mainframe was dead," says O'Connor, "but 22 years later, here I am. [IBM] sold more MIPS last quarter than they ever sold. [The mainframe] continues to be a cornerstone of large enterprise data centers. Nobody has the high-availability and the massive I/Os to match it. We're [i.e., EMC] is seeing some tremendous growth."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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