SAN Sightings At IBM i Shops On The Rise
May 6, 2013 Dan Burger
The idea of using a storage area network to increase storage capacity utilization has not exactly set the IBM i world on fire, but stringing together multiple servers and consolidating the storage space of each is finding its way into more IBM midrange shops than you might realize.
I recently spoke with a couple of storage experts who believe SAN awareness is on the rise. The first is Ed Ahl, director of IBM business for Tributary Systems, a developer of storage virtualization software for IBM i and mainframe environments. The second is Tom Grigoleit, systems engineer at Meridian Group, a provider of IT infrastructure solutions.
Both storage pros say that SAN environments involving IBM i are few and far between, but sightings are more frequent than just a year or two ago.
Part of that is due to companies becoming familiar with the benefits of SANs that connect Linux, Unix, and Windows servers. There are far more SANs of that variety, and one example of a benefit that grabs the attention of budget watchers is the capability to share tape libraries. As companies realize from their SAN experiences the degree of utilization that SAN brings, people start looking to bring the IBM i into that mainstream corporate environment.
Another reason that more SANs are showing up on the IBM i side of the fence of is because the Power7 machines are more friendly toward open systems than Power6 boxes, which was better than Power5 iron. Disk array and storage management software upgrades specifically for SAN have demonstrated IBM’s interest in SAN-related products. Smarter computing is integrated computing in IBM speak. Product development backs it up.
Both my SAN sources have seen companies building IBM i-specific SANs, which seems a little odd given that most SANs are created to be multi-platform. Granted, this is a way to gain SAN experience on the i side of the IT department, but unless this is a stepping stone in the process of getting all platforms involved, it really doesn’t make sense to have a single platform be the goal of a SAN deployment–at least not in terms of the overall business value. However, if it prevents the Windows and Unix folks from devising the plan to bring the i into the SAN, it may be a very good strategy. (Yes, we can all get along, but let’s not let the lunatics run the asylum. I hope you all see the humor in that little joke.)
SAN or no SAN, the IBM i community still prefers tape backup to disk. That’s not a surprise since tape has been part of IT longer than Frank Soltis has been shaving, and disk, compared to tape, is expensive. The LTO drives are fast and most shops can do a complete backup on a single cartridge. But to get back to SANs, another benefit to consider (budget watcher alert) is that backup to tape personnel that was required for each platform can now be better utilized across multiple platforms.
More than 90 percent of the IBM i shops are not thinking about SANs yet, but you might want to look around and see what the Windows, Unix, Linux guys have cooking. It sucks to be the last to know.