IBM Updates Cloud Backup Solution
October 11, 2017 Alex Woodie
IBM i shops are getting new options for backing up data to the cloud from IBM, which last week announced an update to the Cloud Storage Solutions as part of its Technology Refresh for IBM i 7.2 and 7.3. Representatives from IBM and Rocket Software, which actually developed the product, clued us in on the news.
It was almost exactly one year ago when IBM first unveiled Cloud Storage Solutions for i. The offering — which was mostly developed by Rocket Software and really is just one solution — enabled IBM i customers to back up their IFS data to an object storage system sitting in IBM SoftLayer data centers. What’s more, they could do this directly from Backup and Recovery Media Services (BRMS), the native IBM i backup facility provided by IBM. (Alternatively, they could issue a command or programmatically call the facility via API.)
In a subsequent release unveiled earlier this year, IBM added support for Amazon Web Services S3 object store, thereby giving Cloud Storage Solutions for i customers more data storage freedom. However, due to the restricted bandwidth in many shops and the large size of their backups, IBM retained the 1 TB backup restriction that has been in place since last October’s launch, ostensibly to prevent customers from having bad experiences with the product.
With the forthcoming introduction of Cloud Storage Solutions for i version 1.2, IBM is adding important features that will eliminate the 1 TB restriction and pave the way for wider adoption of the solution as an option for true disaster recovery.
Those two features are support for SSL encryption and data compression that shrinks the size of data sent over the wire by a factor of 3x to 10x. The SSL encryption is important for preventing unauthorized access of the data stream as it flows up to the cloud, while compression enables better utilization of the available bandwidth.
“There’s no limit on storage,” says Rocket Software executive Dan Magid. “We can chunk up the transfer so that if we’re transferring large amounts of data, we’re transferring it in sections and segments. Even if it fails, you don’t have to go back to square one and start all over again like you would with FTP. You would start at that last chunk.”
IBM is bundling the encryption and compression capabilities together as the new Advanced feature, or Option 2, for Cloud Storage Solutions for i (5733-ICC). Option 1 is the base product, which costs $2,400 per logical partition. Option 2 is an add-on that costs $1,000 per logical partition.
IBM eliminated the option for using the software with unlimited partitions, which cost $5,000 when the company launched the product a year ago. The unlimited partition option “wasn’t compatible” with how customers were using the product, says IBM product manager Steve Finnes.
While a relatively small number of customers have adopted Cloud Storage Solutions for i over the past year, Finnes says the product is primed for wider adoption via IBM i business partners who are experimenting with it. “I definitely think it’s ready for prime time,” he tells IT Jungle.
Currently, Cloud Storage Solutions for i can be used as a backup and recovery service and as a Box-style file-sharing solution. It’s getting close to the point where it can also replace tape drives in a disaster recovery setup.
“BRMS interacts with the cloud essentially as though it were a tape library or a group of tape libraries, on behalf of the customer,” Finnes says. “So it’s really taken all the processes that our i customers are so familiar with and it’s basically saying, OK, keep working with me the same way, and I’ll take care of this exact type of operation to a cloud facility like the IBM cloud object store, the Amazon cloud, or SoftLayer — take your pick.”
But there’s one important technical caveat to the solution that will prevent it from working as a true disaster recovery solution. Magid explains: “The one thing standing in the way of backing up and restoring is right now you have to restore it on the same system you backed up from,” he says. “In a disaster recovery situation you don’t have access to that system and you need to restore to a different system. That’s being addressed.”
In the meantime, Rocket is working on developing another interface for the system, in addition to BRMS and the command line: a Node- and Angular-based graphical user interface (GUI) that allows users to control the product from Web or mobile devices.
“You’ll have several interfaces to cloud storage solutions,” Magid says. “You’ll have BRMS integration, where it’s just another group of tape derives. You’ve got the command line interface, where you can run commands to move things around. And then you have the GUI interface that’s coming out that allows you to do it via the GUI, and to move things around that way.”