Volume 9, Number 37 -- October 13, 2009

Cloud Storage Services Make their Way to the i OS Midrange

Published: October 13, 2009

by Alex Woodie

A pair of new cloud storage services that work with i OS data were announced last week by Kisco Information Systems and IBM. Kisco's new offering, called i2S3, is tailor made for System i environments, and utilizes Amazon's S3 storage cloud offering to store i OS backups. Meanwhile, IBM's new offering, called the Smart Business Storage Cloud, supports a variety of file systems, and would require System i shops to have implemented an XIV disk array.

Kisco's new i2S3 is aimed at making it inexpensive and easy for a System i shop to get started with a storage cloud. While it can provide any type of file storage for System i servers, it is primarily intended for backup and restore operations, according to Kisco.

i2S3 includes a set of i OS commands that mimic the platform's native save and restore commands. The product guides users through the process of creating save objects, as they would normally do for local saves; both the IFS and traditional library system are supported. But instead of saving these backup objects to a tape drive, disk, or other local device, i2S3 sends the backups to Amazon's Simple Storage Service, or S3, one of the first commercial public/private clouds, and still one of the most successful.

Customers can start using i2S3 after setting up their Amazon S3 accounts. After configuring i2S3, backups run automatically, without requiring any operator intervention or fumbling with tapes. A detailed list of saved objects is created with each i2S3 backup, allowing customers to find files again, in the event they need to be restored. Restores can be performed directly from the i2S3 utility itself. Customers can also create new "buckets" (the term Amazon uses to refer to each storage unit) from the i2S3 tool, and delete old ones as needed.

There are some caveats to i2S3. For starters, there is a 7 GB size limit for individual backup sets. Kisco says this should be plenty big enough for most applications. Also, users must feel comfortable sending their data over the Internet to be stored by Amazon. The e-commerce Web giant performs authentication with S3 requests, to protect against unauthorized access. It also secures data by supporting VPN encryption with its Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) offering. However, VPC as yet only supports its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) cloud service, which is a cloud designed for running Web apps, and not S3. Amazon says VPC will support its other Web services, including S3, at some point in the future.

Kisco offers several significant cases where i2S3 could provide real benefits to a System i shop's storage processes. The most compelling may be taking a storage "snapshot" of one's System i data, creating a storage baseline that can be easily restored. Users also might choose i2S3 to store applications or source code, for legal reasons or just as a handy repository for developers. i2S3 could also distribute data among a network of System i servers, or restore data from one System i server onto another.

Licenses for i2S3 range from $1,295 for a single System i server or logical partition, or $2,195 for an unlimited number of System i servers or LPARs. Customers must also buy storage from Amazon S3. Pricing for S3 starts at $.15 per GB stored, and $0.10 per GB transferred in, and $.017 per GB transferred out.

New IBM Clouds

IBM also made a pair of cloud announcements last week. This includes the Smart Business Storage Cloud, a private cloud storage system that can either be accessed through IBM data centers or installed at customers' sites; and the Information Archive appliance, which allows customers to implement their own storage cloud.

IBM is promoting its Smart Business Storage Cloud offering to customers who want to implement "high-performance file storage-virtualization services" for data types such as text, audio, and video. IBM says the new cloud offering can scale into the petabyte range, and store billions of files for customers, all within a single, globally addressable namespace. In particular, IBM says the offering is ideal for organizations that have adopted the thin-client style of computing.

Smart Business Storage Cloud is based on IBM's General Parallel FileSystem (GPFS) platform, and supports a variety of file storage types. This includes IBM's own xSeries Servers; XIV Storage, a clustered disk storage technology IBM acquired in 2008; SOFS (Scale Out File Service), a Linux-based file system based on GPFS; KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine), a Linux kernel virtualization infrastructure; TSAM (Tivoli Service Automation Manager); and IBM Research file-system types.

None of this sounds terribly helpful from a System i customer's point of view. However, it's worth noting that the System i server does support NFS, so that is one potential route that System i customers can utilize the Smart Business Storage Cloud. Alternatively, because IBM does support its clustered XIV Storage arrays with the i 6.1 operating system, that is theoretically another avenue a System i customer could take.

Meanwhile, IBM's new Information Archive offering is designed to help customers reduce storage costs, by implementing a "cloud." In effect, the Information Archive is a storage array that allows users to manage their data more effectively by implementing and enforcing data retention policies, and using new data management techniques such as data de-duplication.

Like its big brother discussed above, the Information Archive is based on GPFS. The array utilizes a series of nodes, including a "general ingest-GPFS" node, a management node, and a boatload of SATA storage (304 TB of uncompressed disk capacity, to be precise) spread across two racks. There are also provisions to attach tape libraries off the rear of the Information Archive.

IBM says the Information Archive is the first offering that's part of its new "Smart Archive" initiative. The device is designed to be used for a range of data types, including e-mail, digital images, databases, applications, instant messages, account records, contracts, and insurance claim documents, among others. IBM says support for the storage device will be built-in to its applications for e-mail, content management, and data and report archiving--specifically, its Optim Data Growth Solution and Content Collector offerings.

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Editor: Alex Woodie
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik,
Shannon O'Donnell, Timothy Prickett Morgan
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