Of immediate interest to mainframe shops, IBM revamped its tape and Automated Tape Library (ATL) products, especially the TS3500 tape libraries and tape controllers. It also achieved a major breakthrough in packing more data—6.67 billion bits of data per square inch—onto magnetic tape, about 15 times more than the current state of the art.

 “This shows there’s still a demand for tape, and the technology is going to be around and thriving for a long time,” says Schulz.

Even before these announcements, IBM was on a roll. According to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker report for Q4 2005, IBM, with 47 percent growth, experienced the fastest quarter-to-quarter revenue growth worldwide, outpacing both HP and EMC. For all of 2005, IBM experienced 24 percent disk revenue growth.

Virtualization Remains Hot

Although virtualization has yet to catch on in the mainframe environment, IBM’s SVC announcements grabbed much of the attention. Specifically, IBM boosted SVC fabric speed to 4Gb per second, keeping pace with the current fibre channel industry standard. It also added global mirroring, a critical capability for disaster recovery scenarios. Finally, it extended the number of non-IBM storage platforms it supports to include systems from HDS, HP, and Network Appliance. In conjunction with the enhancements, IBM announced it had reached 2000 SVC customers, a major milestone.

“Storage virtualization is an enabling technology,” says David Freund, practice leader at Illuminata Inc., a research firm based in Nashua, NH. “It gives you fungible capacity and ease of management. The mainframe had it long ago.”

EMC and HDS also offer storage virtualization products. EMC introduced Invista, software that provides storage virtualization through an intelligent switch. HDS provides TagmaStore, a virtualizing storage array with the virtualization built into the array itself.

IBM’s SVC, by comparison, delivers virtualization as an appliance.

Although storage virtualization is primarily an open systems issue, most organizations running mainframes also run open systems. Typically, these involve highly heterogeneous storage environments, and they indeed can benefit from storage virtualization, especially if the ultimate goal is an on-demand computing environment.

“IBM has done a better job with storage virtualization than anyone in the market,” says Arun Taneja, principal, Taneja Group, Hopkinton, MA. “They are two years ahead of the others.” Although SVC doesn’t directly address the mainframe, “you can’t realize IBM’s vision of on-demand computing without good virtualization,” he adds. The support for additional storage platforms is welcome, but the biggest gain for companies that have standardized on IBM storage may be the ability to virtualize IBM’s own platforms. “IBM customers have a mix of different IBM storage, some old, some new,” Taneja continues. “Until SVC, they couldn’t meld all these together.” Still, dedicated mainframe shops have shown scant interest in SVC, at least for now.

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