Mainframe Technology Trickles Down to iSeries

A new iSeries offering provides mainframe-like features—advanced backup, replication, and high-availability clustering—across IBM's eServer product line.

IBM Corp. recently announced new iSeries server packages that it says have been designed for midrange customers who require high availability and disaster recovery features but haven’t been able to afford them—until now.

Analysts say Big Blue’s new iSeries offerings are part of a trend: IBM has slowly but surely introduced mainframe-like technologies or features across its eServer product line.

For the record, Big Blue is introducing two new iSeries packages, iSeries for Capacity Backup and iSeries for High Availability.

The first offering, which IBM positions as an off-site backup and disaster recovery solution, is available for iSeries models 825, 870 and 890 systems. It can be used to replicate transactions and other data from primary iSeries systems to a server located off site. Big Blue stresses that Capacity Backup should not be used as a daily backup server for mission-critical applications, and is intended solely for disaster recovery or to restore operation during unplanned outages.

The second offering, designed to maximize iSeries availability, is also available for the models 825, 870, and 890. It clusters multiple iSeries systems together with high availability software from DataMirror, LakeView, or Vision Solutions, which are participants in IBM’s Value Add Enhancement (VAE) program.

IBM officials say the iSeries High Availability option lets customers swap system roles or run production work on both primary and secondary servers. Big Blue expects that iSeries for High Availability servers will most often be clustered with iSeries Enterprise Edition servers of equal or larger processor complements.

Officials say that IBM developed the new iSeries offerings as a result of customer requests for technologies that can help to mitigate the effects of server failure or accommodate unexpected spikes in demand. "Our new business continuity offerings provide customers with the peace of mind of knowing that they can turn on additional server capacity or move applications entirely to a standby server,” said iSeries vice president of marketing Cecelia Marrese, in a statement.

The iSeries for Capacity Backup offering features Big Blue’s Capacity on Demand technology, which lets customers designate a minimum number of active processors and hold extra processors in reserve. Standby processors can be activated at no charge—for up to 90 days—in the event of a qualifying disaster, IBM officials say, and can also be used on a chargeable basis in a variety of scenarios, including unplanned outages, tape backup, failover testing, and role swapping. The iSeries for High Availability server offering, on the other hand, supports On/Off Capacity Upgrade on Demand as well as permanent processor-activation features.

Particularly over the last 12 months, IBM has introduced mainframe-like features such as Capacity on Demand (COD)—which lets users unlock additional system capacity to accommodate increased demands—and Capacity On/Off Upgrade on Demand (similar to COD, but with an on/off capability) for its pSeries Unix and iSeries minicomputer lines.

Big Blue’s latest offerings, which leverage enabling technology from VAE partners, continue this trend, says Gordon Haff, a senior analyst with consultancy Illuminata. “IBM is taking advantage of sort of resource sharing among the eServer line, and so a lot of the software investment is leveraged across the line,” he points out. “These are capabilities [data replication and mirroring, high-availability] that have been associated with the mainframe, but which IBM is slowly but surely bringing to the rest of the eServer line.”

The systems were expected to become available last week. Big Blue says that both offerings will sell for comparatively less than Enterprise Edition versions of equivalent iSeries models.

About the Author

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