BCC Technologies Extends AS/400 Storage Options

During IBM’s March COMMON conference in San Diego, BCC Technologies (Irvine, Calif.) announced several new or substantially enhanced storage products for the AS/400. In addition to beefing up its Extender line of internal AS/400 fixed disk storage drives, BCC Technologies announced a new cartridge-based tape library that leverages the proven price/performance of the AIT storage media first developed by Sony Corp. (New York).

10,000 RPM AS/400 disks -- based on IBM's Ultrastar 36LZX -- and a series of new AIT and AIT2 tape libraries are coming from BCC Technologies
With their high rotational speeds and low latencies, the revamped Extender fixed disk drives promise to deliver exceptional performance in demanding environments. And lest you think 10,000 RPM a bleeding edge technology, Rob Enderle, a senior analyst with research firm and consultancy Giga Information Group (Santa Clara, Calif.), says that 10,000 RPM drives are now becoming common place in SCSI-based storage subsystems in the client/server space. BCC’s Extender fixed disk drives mark the debut of 10,000-RPM technology on the AS/400 platform.

Extender drives are based on the IBM’s fourth-generation Ultrastar 36LZX hard disk assemblies (HDA). With storage costs that typically start at just about 13 cents a megabyte, capacities that scale from 4.19 GB to 17.54 GB and average seek times of 2.49 to 4.9 ms, the Ultrastar 36LZX drives are the latest and greatest in fixed disk technology from IBM. Because they boast up to 4 MB of integrated cache, the Ultrastar LZX drives can support sustained transfer rates of up to 36 MBs and peak burst rates of 45 MBs.

Perhaps most significantly, the low latency and high rotational speeds of the Ultrastar 36LZX drives combine to deliver significantly enhanced I/O performance—to the tune of 115 operations per second—says David Breisacher, chairman and CEO of BCC Technologies.

“At 115 OPS, the Extender is the newest and best performing drive you can buy for the AS/400,” Breisacher concludes.

While Giga’s Enderle acknowledges that the BCC’s announcement is important in bringing the AS/400 up to step with its competitors in the client/server space, he notes that most vendors are now moving to standard 10,000 RPM production for enterprise-class HDAs. Moreover, Enderle points out, the 10,000 RPM envelope has already been surpassed by Seagate Technologies Inc. (Scotts Valley, Calif.), which in February unveiled plans for 15,000 RPM Ultra160- and fibre channel-based HDAs.

Also at COMMON, BCC Technologies unveiled a series of new tape libraries based on Sony’s AIT and AIT2 formats. Company officials expect that the availability of low-cost AIT hardware and backup media—AIT is a mainstay in the client server space—could be a boon, as well, to AS/400 environments.

While backup costs aren’t quite what they used to be in the heyday of the mainframe and in the adolescence of the AS/400—when tape libraries were sometimes constructed in refrigerator-sized cabinets and leveraged linear tape formats such as IBM's half-inch 3480 and 3490 series—such costs aren’t yet negligible. As a proof of point, BCC Technologies claims a 3 year cost-of-ownership of $18,500 for its 9101 library, a savings of approximately 65 percent over the $53,560 3 year cost-of-ownership of a similar performing Magstar 3590-E11 from IBM.

BCC officials are optimistic that the company’s AIT-based drives will be a hit in the AS/400 for reasons other than economical concerns, however. According to company CEO Breisacher, BCC Technologies’ new AIT- and AIT2-based libraries have been engineered for environments in which reliability and availability are both crucial concerns.

“[AIT2 technology] meets the corporate reality today that the loss of just one day’s data has become a major disaster,” Breisacher explains. “These AIT2 tape libraries are already running on AS/400s where ERP, global computing, Internet applications, business intelligence and EDI renders any kind of downtime unacceptable and rapid recovery an absolute must.”

As far as technical specs are concerned, AIT2 tape technology is certainly no slouch. BCC Technologies’ 9191 Tape Library, for example, boasts transfer rates of up to 50 GB/hour. With advanced features like striping and the company’s “Concurrent Save” software, performance increases to 75 GB/hour and 100 GB/hour, respectively.

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