Fibre Channeling to AS/400 in 2000

In preparation for the growing versatility of enterprise storage solutions, IBM will introduce Fibre Channel support on the AS/400 during the second half of 2000. Such support is expected to help IBM compete with other storage industry giants--such as Dell Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard, Compaq Computer Corp. and EMC Corp.--in the storage area network (SAN) market.

AS/400 Fibre Channel support will be achieved through enhancements to OS/400, a new I/O adapter that supports the Fibre Channel interface and "all the firmware that goes along with that," says Larry Connoy, storage solutions manager for IBM's AS/400 Division.

The essential advantage that Fibre Channel brings to the AS/400 market is the extension of existing backup and storage capabilities across a greater physical distance, from 25 meters to 10 kilometers. "There's a big benefit there as far as planning for system layout," Connoy says. "There are customers today that don't have enough physical room, based on the 25 meters, to support all of the their devices." The ability to traverse greater distances also facilitates security and protects from natural disasters, as companies can lock up their storage devices at remote locations.

Once Fibre Channel support is in place, certain AS/400 shops will be able to take advantage of IBM's Shark project, underway to develop a high-end data storage system that can attach to a multitude of servers.

Connoy points out that SAN technology will not appeal to all AS/400 installations. For the most part, SAN will strike a chord with some of the larger AS/400 customers that have many different types of servers in their enterprise. "One of the benefits of SAN is you have one storage subsystem that you manage, you're not managing unique storage subsystems for each server type," he says.

Another benefit, according to Connoy, is that businesses will more easily be able to develop a consistent disaster recovery plan for their enterprises. "The cost of managing storage can be significantly greater than the initial investment," he says. "SAN has promised to reduce that by making it the same interface for all your storage."

The profile of an AS/400 candidate for SAN implementation is a shop with multiple, high-end server types and a need to simplify complex storage management in their enterprise. "One of the benefits of SAN is that storage is reusable, it's not unique to the server," Connoy points out. "You can have a pool of unused storage, and assign that to servers as they need additional storage; you don't have to stock or order unique disk files for each system type. For customers looking for central storage management, SAN is a good deal, but that is not the majority of AS/400 customers."

--L. Greenemeier