IBM Adds Mainframe Features to Shark

IBM Corp. has added functionality to its TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server, nicknamed "Shark," to improve management and performance.

IBM has increased the maximum volume size for mainframe storage on Shark to 27GB, up from 9GB. Chris Saul, product manager for Shark at IBM, says the larger logical volumes can improve both the manageability and performance of the storage system.

"Customers frequently have to split data up to fit in smaller volumes," Saul says. This results in a file distributed across a large number of units, introducing complexity. With the larger volume size, Saul says, "They'll be able to put that data on a smaller number of volumes." Saul also says the larger volume sizes can improve performance, since the machine will scan fewer places looking for a datum.

The update also introduces Control Unit Initiate Reconfiguration or CUIR. CUIR addresses a management problem when Shark is serviced. When a technician works on a Shark, the storage channel from a mainframe must be taken offline. Before this feature was implemented, the mainframe operator had to manually take the connection offline—an often-difficult task in environments with several servers or storage devices. If the operator takes the wrong channel offline, data can be lost.

When the Shark is serviced, it detects which channels need to be taken down, then sends a signal to the mainframe, indicating the channel must go down. The mainframe then automatically takes the channel offline. "It helps to eliminate errors, and it helps to eliminate downtime," Saul says.

The final new Shark feature is improved "call home" software. Each Shark ships with a PC to monitor activity and notifies IBM when problems occur. The new software sends data back to IBM more efficiently.

Saul says these new features are upgradable on existing Shark systems—they're accomplished through updates to firmware and software. "All of these functions are upgradeable on Shark, at no cost," he says.

IBM also announced new storage products that take features from the mainframe world into mid-market environments. IBM defines the mid-market as enterprises with 100 to 1000 employees, or less than $1 billion in revenue.

For example, the new FAST 700 Storage Server is a 19-inch rackmount unit for managing storage arrays. Although IBM targets companies with Intel-based infrastructures, it has features like Flash Copy and Remote Copy that were previously only available on Shark. In addition, it uses 2Gbps Fibre Channel from end to end.