Storage Wars: Attack of the Tapes

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With the rapid growth of Web commerce, enterprises are struggling to provide storage solutions that are continuously available, satisfy peak demands, and manage storage growth while protecting data from malicious attacks. Central to this discussion is that mainframe computing, historically the data center workhorse, is extending outside the data center. With the mainframe hosting more e-commerce applications and enterprisewide internal applications, the core mainframe system is being opened up to everyone. As data center managers migrate applications traditionally hosted on Windows, Linux, or Unix servers to the mainframe environment, more threats will haunt the data center and more compliance regulations will impact how and where data is managed and stored for business continuity and Disaster Recovery (DR) requirements.

Mainframe environments will be hosting an expanding number of customer-facing and revenue-generating applications. Mainframes will now manage transactions, records, and other data bits that will contain personal information that need to be protected. Similarly, as businesses migrate applications to the mainframe environment, by default, they’ll migrate the requirements and best practices for data management, too. the good news is there’s an opportunity to reduce the cost of tape management, ensure data protection of critical information in the right place, seamlessly integrate into Wide Area Network (WAN) optimization solutions, and build an extensible architecture for data management.

Notable Technology Evolutions in Mainframe Tape

Mainframe storage solutions have been moving toward extensible, flexible, open systems solutions to support high-performance requirements found in mainframe servers. the first is virtual tape, which was initially introduced in the mid- 90s as a solution that reduced the cost of data storage and retrieval while improving response times and access to data. Virtual tape has now become a way to use large disk systems and present them as virtual tape drives for primarily archival requirements and backup operations. These systems can present IP storage as a virtual tape system and the IP storage systems can reside anywhere on the LAN. The benefit is more efficient backup operations, faster time to recovery, and lower data storage cost.

A second key change in the mainframe architecture is the move from ESCON to FICON in the early 2000s. FICON leverages Fibre Channel connectivity to provide higher performance, the ability to tie into larger storage network architectures, and a lower cost of connectivity via the use of open systems storage network technology. FICON, as a network service running over Fibre Channel, can leverage a key technology—storage Area Network (SAN) extension over IP. This is similar to channel extension that’s been done in the mainframe world for years, but the benefit of SAN extension is that the technology has security built into the protocol—IPsec—and leverages standard storage management tools to lower the cost of management. (IPsec is the best-in-class data protection protocol for core applications, and is mandated as a best practice as documented in RFC3723 for SAN extension.)

The third key technology change is the low cost of connectivity between sites. the move to shared network services— such as metro Ethernet, Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS), and Virtual private LAN service (VPLS)—coupled with the accelerated movement to 10GigE infrastructures brings Ethernet and IP to storage as an essential, scalable, lower-cost connectivity that can be used for storage connections over distance. Since IP and Ethernet bring simplicity, lower cost of bandwidth, and lower cost of management, it becomes the enabling technology for connecting and extending storage to anywhere, and it’s an important tool in building the right data protection solution for storage.

The fourth key trend is moving the backup operation offsite. Customers are moving toward either backup to tape located offsite or backup to disk located offsite for continuous backup and restore operations. This trend is being accelerated with the convergence of backup and replication technologies into continuous data protection solutions that are currently deployed in many enterprises. IDS predicts these solutions will be deployed within a year by 80 to 100 percent of companies currently using or evaluating backup or replication solutions. While this may be optimistic, there are significant benefits in leveraging continuous data protection solutions that use IP networks for connection between locations that move data over the IP network via SAN extension topologies.

With virtual tape, SAN extension for FICON, the wide adoption of storage over IP to support the continued trend toward storage and server consolidation, and the advantages found with continuous data protection solutions, IP is quickly coming to the forefront of technologies to leverage for improved business operations.

Protecting Against Tape Loss

Tape loss is a critical issue. the industry and several vendors have pushed the idea that, if you encrypt your tapes, you’re protected. However, they’re all missing a critical point. Lost tapes bring you two types of risks:

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