M81 Speeds Backups with Flash for i
February 3, 2021 Alex Woodie
M81, a French independent software vendor (ISV) that develops IBM i software, recently announced a new release of Flash for i, a utility that uses IBM FlashCopy and EMC SnapShot technology to clone an IBM i disk volume in just two minutes. With version 4.0 out the door and a new partnership with an American company, M81 is looking to expands its operations in the United States.
Flash for i is an innovative utility designed to provide an IBM i-centric way to manage the FlashCopy and Snapshot commands that IBM and Dell EMC bring to the table with their enterprise storage arrays, as well as the downstream workflows that often accompany those commands.
According to Bruno Taverne, the sales and partner manager for M81, the Flash for i software automates all of the tasks that must be completed in order to utilize those FlashCopy and Snapshot commands for IT operations.
That includes the housekeeping work that must take place to create the clones and ensure they don’t conflict with the production environment, as well as the useful work that will be accomplished with the clones, such as for creating backups, creating development and test environments, or creating data extracts for BI and data analytics initiatives.
Taverne explains how Flash for i works:
“Installed on the source partition (the one you want to clone), you define in Flash for i the partition disks you want to clone (standard ASP and/or iASP), the new clone partition you want to start, the actions you want to be proceeded on the clone partition (such as backups, testing, data extractions),” he tells IT Jungle via email.
“Then, through a single command (generally inserted in the scheduler) you start Flash for i, which will communicate with the external storage to ask to do a Snapshot/FlashCopy [and] communicate with the HMC to start the clone partition which will appropriate itself the cloned disks,” he continues. “During the start of this clone partition, Flash for i will make this partition inoffensive (stop auto-jobs, change IP address, etc.). Then Flash for i will start for example the backup on the clone partition.”
Once the software has been installed and configured, the process of executing the disk cloning command and kicking off a downstream job can be done very quickly. For busy IBM i environments, running a backup against the clone partition using an externally connected LTO drive or VTL device means less impact on the production system. In fact, according to M81, a full system SAVE21 backup can be completed with just two minutes of downtime on the production system.
In addition to speedy full and incremental backups, the cloned environment can be used for other purposes, including creating test and development environments, or other validation purposes. It can also be used as part of an extract, transform, and load (ETL) process for creating or refreshing a data warehouse. The clones can also be used to meet the anonymization requirements for GDPR, CCPA, and other data regulation.
While IT professionals are free to use the IBM and EMC commands to create these point-in-time copies of disk volumes, or to create their own CL routines to automate these tasks, the advantage of the M81 Flash for i offering is that it automates many these steps on behalf of the user. What’s more, it does this from an IBM i-centric manner, giving IBM i users the ability to use these powerful commands without having advanced administration and development skills.
Of course, customers must have an external storage array to use Flash for i, which relies on the hardware-based copy functions that are built into those arrays. Internal disk cannot be used with the FlashCopy and Snapshot commands. For IBM, the M81 software supports DS8000, Storwize, SVC, and FlashSystem storage arrays. For Dell EMC, Flash for i supports the VMAX array. The company says support for other storage manufacturers is coming (it features PureStorage in its marketing material).
With Flash for i version 4.0, the company has added several new features, including a more extensive monitoring and alerting functions, and support for IBM Cloud Storage Solutions for IBM i (5733-ICC). It also adds new capabilities for creating partitions for test, validation, and pre-production activities, as well as the capability to define a source partition as a centralized management partition.
M81 is based in Lyon, France, and has been in business since 2014. The company was founded by CTO Pascal Ruckebusch, who has decades of experience on the platform. In addition to Flash for i, M81 develops two other products, including Control for i, which connects IBM i log events to general system monitoring tools, and Recover for i, a continuous backup tool that is based on IBM’s local journaling technology.
While most of M81’s customers are located in France, the Flash for i offering is used widely outside of the country. According to Taverne, 30 percent of its partners and revenues originate with sales outside of France.
The company is looking to boost sales in the United States. It recently established a partnership with Mark III Systems, an IBM business partner based in Houston, Texas, and landed its first client in the U.S. It’s now in the process of building 24×7 support network for customers in North America, Taverne says.
Licenses for Flash for i starts at around $9,000 for the first partition, with discounts available for multiple partitions. Customers can also get access to Flash for i with a monthly subscription. M81 is planning two upcoming webinars to showcase its Flash for i technology, which will be held March 9 and March 11. You can find more information on its website: www.m81.eu.