For ~20 years, since 1996 when IBM announced their IBM TotalStorage Virtual Tape Server Model B16 (3494-B16), typically known as the VTS, followed by the StorageTek (Oracle) Virtual Storage Manager (VSM) in 1998, there has been evident IBM Mainframe VTL innovation and product line refreshes, offering a granularity of offerings for all users, regardless of size. The consolidation of the IBM Mainframe VTL marketplace in the ~2017-2019 period is notable. IBM have consolidated their options to the high-end TS7760, retiring their TS7720 and TS7740 models. Similarly, Oracle have also delivered significant performance and enhancements to their VSM offering, where the latest VSM 7 delivers significant resource when compared with the VSM 6 and older predecessors (NB. The VSM 6 platform replaced the proprietary VSM 5 platform with Sun servers & Sun JBOD disk storage). Similarly, EMC have consolidated their DLm offerings to the DLm8500, retiring their DLm1000, DLm1020, DLm2000, DLm2100, DLm6000 and DLm8000 models.
A high-level review of the mainstream market place offerings, namely EMC DLm8500, IBM TS7760 and Oracle VSM 7 demonstrates Enterprise Class VTL solutions, delivering significant availability, capacity and performance capabilities, mandatory for the higher echelons of IBM Z Mainframe user. Conversely, it follows that such attributes and associated cost become somewhat of a concern for the small to medium sized IBM Mainframe user. When any product becomes End Of Support (EOS), End Of Life (EOL) or even End Of Marketing (EOM), the viability and associated TCO becomes a consideration. Typically, there are several options to address such an issue:
- Do nothing (because we’re decommissioning the IBM Mainframe sometime soon)
- Secure a long-term support contract (E-g. 3-5 years) ASAP, to reduce increasing support costs
- Perform a technology refresh to the latest supported supplier offering
- Review the marketplace and migrate to a more suitable supported solution
Only the incumbent IBM Mainframe VTL user can decide the best course action for their organization, but from a dispassionate viewpoint, reviewing these respective options generates the following observations:
- Do nothing: The cost of doing nothing is always expensive. The perpetual “we’re moving away from the IBM Mainframe in the next 3-5 years” might have been on many “to-do” lists, for decades”! The IBM Mainframe platform is strategic!
- Long-term support contract: This delays the inevitable and potentially generates data availability challenges, as the equipment ages and potentially becomes more unreliable, with limited or expensive OEM support.
- Technology refresh: In theory, the best option, upgrading the incumbent technology to the latest offering. In this instance, the cost might be significant for the small to medium sized user, as EMC, IBM and Oracle no longer offer “entry to medium-sized” solutions.
- Migrate: By definition migration is perceived as introducing risk, migrating from a tried and tested to a new solution. However, generally the best products come from suppliers with a focus on their flagship solution, as opposed to a large company, with many offerings…
The IBM Mainframe VTL marketplace does include other suppliers, including FUJITSU, LUMINEX, Visara, naming but a few, and one must draw one’s own conclusions as to their respective merits. What is always good is a new marketplace entrant, with a credible offering, a different approach or demonstrable expertise.
Optica Technologies is a privately held technology company headquartered in Louisville, Colorado, USA. Optica have been providing high-quality data centre infrastructure solutions since 1967. Optica has been an IBM strategic partner since 2002 and has received the most extensive IBM qualification available for third party solutions. Optica products have been successfully deployed in many major enterprise data centres worldwide.
The Optica Prizm FICON to ESCON Protocol Converter designed to enable IBM mainframe customers to invest in the latest System Z platforms (I.E. zEC12/zBC12 upwards), while preserving the ability to connect to critical ESCON and Bus/Tag device types that remain.
The next generation zVT Virtual Tape Node (VTN) exploits the latest Intel server technology, delivering outstanding performance, resiliency and scalability to serve a broad range of IBM Z customers. Each zVT VTN is modular and packaged efficiently with (2) FICON channels in an industry standard 2U rack format. The zVT VTN supports up to 512 3490/3590 Virtual Tape Drive (VTD) resources, delivering ~500 MB/S performance for the typical IBM Mainframe tape workload. As per some of the architectural design characteristics of the IBM Z Mainframe server (I.E. z13, z14), the zVT VTN server is enabled for operation in warmer environments than traditional data centres and engineered for extreme conditions such as high humidity, earthquakes and dust. To support the diversity of IBM Z Mainframe customer environments, from the smallest to largest, the flexible zVT solution is available in three different formats:
- zVT 3000i: for IBM Mainframe users with more limited requirements, the fully integrated zVT 3000i model leverages the same Enterprise Class zVT VTN, incorporating 16 Virtual Tape Drive (VTD) resources and 8 TB of RAID-6 disk capacity, delivering 20 TB of effective capacity via the onboard hardware compression card (2.5:1 compression). The fundamental cost attributes of the zVT 3000i make a very compelling argument for those customers on a strict budget, requiring an Enterprise Class IBM Mainframe storage solution.
- zVT 5000-iNAS: the flagship zVT 5000-iNAS solution is available in a fully redundant, high availability (HA) base configuration that combines (2) VTNs and (2) Intelligent Storage Nodes (ISNs). The entry-level zVT 5000-iNAS HA offering incorporates 512 (256 per VTN) Virtual Tape Drive (VTD) resources, delivering ~1 GB/Sec performance, 144 TB RAW and ~288 TB of effective capacity using a conservative 4:1 data reduction metric. zVT 5000-iNAS can scale to a performance rating of ~4 GB/Sec and capacity in excess of 11 PB RAW.
- zVT 5000-FLEX: For IBM Mainframe users wishing to leverage their investments in IP (NFS) or FC (SAN) disk arrays, the zVT 5000-FLEX offering can be configured with (2) 10 GbE (1 GbE option) or (2) 8 Gbps Fibre Channel ports. Virtual Tape Drive (VTD) flexibility is provided with VTD options of 16, 64 or 256, while onboard hardware compression safeguards optimized data reduction. Enterprise wide DR is simplified, as incumbent Time Zero (E.g. Flashcopy, Snapshot, et al) functions can be utilized for IBM Mainframe tape data.
In summary, Optica zVT reduces the IBM Mainframe VTL technology migration risk, when considering the following observations:
- Technical Support: With 50+ years IBM Mainframe I/O connectivity experience, Optica have refined their diagnostics collection and processing activities, safeguarding rapid problem escalation and rectification, with Level 1-3 experts, located in the same geographical location.
- Total Cost of Acquisition (TCA): zVT is a granular, modular and scalable solution, with a predictable, optimized and granular cost metric, for the smallest to largest of IBM Mainframe user, regardless of IBM Z Operating System.
- Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): Leveraging from the latest software and hardware technologies and their own streamlined support processes, Optica deliver world class cradle-to-grave support for an optimized on-going cost.
- Flexibility: Choose from an all-in-one solution for the smallest of users (I.E. zVT 3000i), a turnkey high-availability solution for simplified optimized usage (I.E. zVT 5000-iNAS) and the ability to leverage from in-house disk storage resources (I.E. zVT 5000-FLEX).
- Simplified Migration: A structured approach to data migration, simplifying the transition from the incumbent VTL solution to zVT. zVT also utilizes the standard AWSTAPE file format, meaning data migration from zVT is simple, unlike the proprietary AWS file formats used by other VTL offerings.
In conclusion sometimes End Of Support (EOS) presents an opportunity to review the incumbent solution and consider a viable alternative and in the case of an IBM Mainframe VTL, for the small to medium sized user especially, having a viable target option, might just allow an organization to maintain, if not improve their current IBM Mainframe VTL expenditure profile…