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Throughout most of the computer industry’s history, data has been tied very tightly to the computer that used it, and to a large extent, this is still the case. Look at all the connectivity and data transformation programs AS/400 shops have to use. If they want client software to be able to use data stored in AS/400s or vice versa, they need to buy a PC connectivity program from IBM, Wall Data, WRQ, Attachmate, or others (yes, there are many others). If they want AS/400s to be able to share data files with a UNIX or Windows NT server or vice versa, they have to go to Lakeview Technology, Vision Solutions, or DataMirror to buy data transformation products that suck information out of DB2/400 databases and massage it so it looks like Oracle, SQL Server, Informix, Sybase, or other database formats that are popular on UNIX and NT servers. Even on Integrated Netfinity Servers hiding under the skins of modern AS/400s, information that is used by those NT server feature cards is stored on partitions within AS/400 disk arrays and is separate from the AS/400’s own data files. And even customers who want one AS/400 to share information in real time with another AS/400 have to resort to one of various high-availability products from IBM Business Partners to do this.

Both storage and server vendors agree on one thing: The tight link between servers and their data storage devices has to be broken. The tightly coupled server-storage link was fine when companies had one host system and that was pretty much it. And it was good enough even for small businesses, which tend to have one production server and a couple file and print servers attached to it. But this tight coupling doesn’t cut it in the heterogeneous computing environment that is typical at medium and large enterprises. These companies, who constitute only a third or less of the computing sites in the world but nonetheless spend more than half the IT budget dollars, are up to their necks in complexity and want a better—and faster—way to let any server get to any data it needs. That’s where storage area networks, or SANs, come in.

The conceptual model that all servers—whether they are AS/400 servers, UNIX boxes, or NT toys—use in establishing how they talk to their data storage has its heritage in the IBM mainframe world, which was also picked up by the PC environment 20 years ago. Basically, one client or server gets its own storage, and it literally owns it. Nothing can get to that storage without going through the operating system in charge of that machine and without using up processing cycles on that machine. What this means is that in a

complex, multisystem environment, a lot of the aggregate processing power in the server network or in the larger client/server network is dedicated to just moving data around from one machine to another. In a SAN setup, the goal—and I say “goal” because today’s SAN technology falls far short of this—is to cut the dependency that storage devices like disk arrays and tape libraries have on their servers and their respective operating systems and replace it with a centralized storage cluster that employs a high-speed fabric of switches, hubs, and interface cards to give all servers access to all data. Conceptually, this model bears some resemblance to the Internet, in which any client or server can go through TCP/IP networking to find any file on any server and do whatever it wants with it, provided it has authority.

IBM believes that, by 2002, upwards of 70 percent of the data in use at medium and large enterprises will be stored on SANs, so it comes as no surprise that Big Blue is throwing its weight into the SAN concept alongside EMC Corp., Compaq, and Sun Microsystems’ Encore division, IBM’s main competition in the open systems disk market. Hewlett-Packard, a big server rival, resells disk arrays from Data General and Hitachi, and until recently was one of EMC’s biggest OEM partners.) IBM claims that its ESCON fiber optic connectivity for mainframe disk arrays, announced in 1991, laid the groundwork for SANs. While that is not technically true—IBM didn’t create ESCON as a means for connecting UNIX and NT servers to mainframes, but rather as a way to speed up and lengthen links between disks and servers—IBM certainly has learned a thing or two about the complexities of building central data repositories using ESCON because market conditions have forced IBM to extend ESCON to UNIX and NT servers.

IBM has had a lot of help from its SAN hardware Business Partners: Brocade Communication Systems, Computer Network Technology, LSI Logic, QLogic, McDATA, Pathway, and Emulex Network Systems. These companies are actually building the hubs, switches, and I/O cards that adhere to the Fibre Channel standard that has been championed by server vendors Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard and disk maker Seagate Technology for the past several years. Fibre Channel, having effectively stomped on IBM’s competing Serial Storage Architecture (SSA), is now the technology that everyone agrees will be the basis of storage area networks. They don’t agree on much else, however.

Building SANs will involve more than replacing short and slow small computer system interface (SCSI) copper wires with long and fast fiber optic cables. For one thing, the industry needs a SAN standard, and as is usually the case early in a technology’s development, multiple standards are competing right now. Getting a usable SAN standard means getting the companies that create operating systems, servers, and storage devices to agree on a broad set of specifications and APIs that will allow all of their respective iron to interconnect and all that software to play nicely together.

Industry players are generating a lot of heat in the SAN standards area right now, but very little light. They all have competing interests that are difficult, if not impossible, to rectify. In July, five of the 12 founding members of the FibreAlliance consortium, established by EMC back in February 1999, walked out and formed their own consortium called the Open Standards Fabric Initiative. The members of the OSFI—Ancor Communications, Gadzoox Networks, Vixel Corp., Brocade, and McDATA—contend that the 12 agreed on how to implement Fibre Channel in host bus adapters, but couldn’t agree on standards in Fibre Channel switches. No surprises there; the switches are where the money will be made, and everybody wants to control what goes into the standard. Moreover, they said the FibreAlliance was moving too slowly. EMC is particularly keen on reining in Fibre Channel hub and switch vendors so their innovations don’t bypass or in any way dilute the value of its Symmetrix disk arrays. How long the remaining partners in the FibreAlliance—Emulex, G2 Networks, HP, JNI, QLogic, and Veritas—will stay in lockstep with EMC is unclear. HP is already on the outs with EMC since it no longer resells EMC’s disks, and the remaining companies will be under great pressure to work with whoever sets the standards.

In addition to this bickering, the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), formed in January 1998, is trying to develop standards in the SAN space. With over 100 member companies, including IBM and all the major server, storage, and operating system vendors, this nonprofit organization seeks to promote cooperation among SAN vendors but has very little power to enforce any standards when and if they all ever agree on any. As in the past with other technologies, computer buyers will very likely set the standards with their budget dollars. And that is why IBM and its SAN partners should be more interested in getting you interested about SAN technology in your AS/400 shop. With over a half million servers in the field, and at least a good quarter of them candidates for SAN technologies, the high-end AS/400 base is not only pay dirt for SAN vendors but could be a vehicle with which to set SAN standards—if they would only stop discriminating against the AS/400.

Left Out Again

AS/400 customers got their first hint of IBM’s SAN plans when the company introduced the Tarpon 2105 model B09 Versatile Storage Server in June 1998. Tarpon is based on IBM’s very successful 7133 SSA disk subsystems, announced in mid-1996, for its own RS/6000 servers as well as competing UNIX servers from HP and Sun. In late 1996, IBM added 7133 drivers for OS/2 Warp, NetWare, and Windows NT. With the Tarpon array, IBM put a big disk controller in front of the 7133s, consisting of two RS/6000 F50/H50 motherboards, that allowed a rack of 7133s to support multiple and incompatible operating systems, this time including OS/400. A base Tarpon comes with 228 GB of disk capacity, expandable to 2 terabytes (TB), and 512 MB of read/write cache memory, expandable to 6 GB. Tarpon attaches to the AS/400 using the same feature 6501 disk input/output processors (IOPs) that are used to connect 9337s to D series and higher AS/400s. According to tests at IBM’s Rochester labs, the Tarpon array performs equal to or better than external 9337 arrays of equal capacity on batch and online transaction workloads. In February 1999, Tarpon was upgraded so it could use IBM’s 18-GB disks, boosting capacity from 228 GB to 456 GB in the base box; total capacity with two extra disk frames was increased to 4 TB from 2 TB. The base Tarpon, with 228 GB of disk space and 512 MB of cache memory, had a list price of $250,000 or $1.09 per MB. At the time of the Tarpon announcement, 9337-59X units sold for $.60 per MB, and internal AS/400 disk subsystems sold for $.50 to $.60 per MB.

Clearly, unless customers had a compelling need to consolidate their AS/400, NT, and UNIX storage on a single box, it was cheaper to keep data files on separate arrays than on Tarpons. As we go to press, IBM is announcing Tarpon’s replacement, the Shark Enterprise Storage Server, and Tarpon prices have fallen to about $.50 per MB. But internal AS/400 disk subsystems sell for under $.20 per MB, so there is still a big price penalty for IBM’s SAN-ready storage servers.

This price disparity between internal AS/400 disks—remember, the 9337s have been withdrawn from marketing and the only outboard AS/400 disk arrays are Tarpon and Shark—and external units will continue with the Shark arrays. As far as hardware technology goes, the Shark controller is the same as the Tarpon controller except that the Shark has 384 MB of nonvolatile cache memory to improve its reliability, it supports IBM’s 36-GB disk drives (it will support 72-GB drives when they are announced next year), and it will eventually participate in Fibre Channel SANs. The Shark array also includes lots of software functionality that currently comes only in IBM’s mainframe disk arrays, which means IBM can once again compete head-to-head with EMC in the disk array market.

Shark comes in several different configurations. The 2105-E10 and E20 models can be equipped with 420 GB of capacity using IBM’s 9-GB disks. The E20 can also have twice as many disks to boost the base capacity to 840 GB using 9-GB drives. These are dubbed “ultra high performance” configurations because the number of disk arms is

relatively high (one per 9-GB drive, in fact). The mere “high performance” E10 and E20 models have from 420 GB to 5.6 TB of storage and use IBM’s slower (yet fatter and cheaper) 18-GB disks. And the so-called “capacity” E10 and E20 configurations have from
1.7 TB to 11.2 TB of total capacity and use 36-GB drives, which are slower still. The base Shark E10 and E20 models have an initial list price of $231,300 or $.55 per MB. It’s likely that IBM will sell them for around $.45 per MB. Additional disks for the Sharks, which come in eight-packs, have list prices that range from $.16 to $.33 per MB, with the faster 9-GB disk drives having the highest price and the slower 36-GB drives having the lowest price.

In addition to having more expansion room than the Tarpons, the Sharks can be equipped with lots of supplementary software, none of which comes cheap. These features are all aimed at S/390 shops and provide functions that compete with EMC’s Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF) and TimeFinder features, which have been recently ported to the AS/400. SRDF, with a price tag of $85,000, allows AS/400 shops to store multiple copies of databases and applications on mirrored, remote Symmetrix arrays. TimeFinder, which starts at $60,000, is essentially SDRF implemented on one Symmetrix array and can be used to create two copies of data that are synchronized and can feed two separate AS/400s, such as a data warehouse and a production system. AS/400s wanting to use either of these Symmetrix functions need to buy another EMC program called CopyPoint, which costs $44,500. The IBM Shark array’s FlashCopy function, which costs from $23,700 to $180,000 depending on the capacity of the array, creates an instant snapshot of a disk volume so multiple applications can use it and gives users the same capabilities as EMC’s TimeFinder. (A disk volume is roughly analogous to the AS/400’s auxiliary storage pool, or ASP. Volumes and ASPs are virtual disks created out of software that rides on top of real disk drives). The Shark’s Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy function, which costs from $33,600 to $270,000, depending on the size of the Shark array, is similar to SRDF. These two Shark functions are available to OS/390, UNIX, and Windows NT servers, but not to AS/400 shops.

That’s right. The main external storage array that is the heart of IBM’s SAN initiative for the AS/400 doesn’t provide the advanced and competitive remote copy and snapshot functions that AS/400 customers would love to offload from their AS/400 servers to their storage servers. IBM says that its Business Partners offer a rich heritage of high availability software and that this is the path of the future. Maybe Lakeview, Vision, or DataMirror will see a business opportunity and start porting their code to run in the Shark’s controller card rather than on the AS/400 proper, thereby saving you processing power for real work. Then again, maybe they won’t. No matter what they do, IBM has made it clear that the AS/400 is not going to be put on the same level playing field as S/390, UNIX, or NT. If this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to you, join the club. Then complain to IBM.

Does It Matter?

IBM’s disk marketeers in Rochester say that for the foreseeable future, the vast majority of AS/400 customers will be able to get by with plain old direct-attached SCSI disks. What everyone missed back in June when IBM was touting its AS/400 SAN strategy and future projects is that this strategy really comes down to creating a Fibre Channel IOP card for AS/400s and tweaking OS/400 to support it so you can attach Shark arrays to them. Nothing more. IBM’s been talking about this for years, and this is not a SAN strategy. When AS/400s can use all the functions in the Shark array that UNIX and NT servers can or are provided equivalents from AS/400 high-availability partners, maybe then IBM can call it a strategy. Not until.

That doesn’t mean that Shark and Fibre Channel will not be important advancements for high-end AS/400 shops. There are two main benefits to the forthcoming Fibre Channel support over the current UltraSCSI interconnection technology used in AS/400 servers. The first is speed. One of the big bottlenecks in AS/400 servers is I/O

bandwidth. Even if IBM can build a supercomputer-class backplane within the Northstar servers (as it has), UltraSCSI, which runs at a peak 40 megabytes per second (MBps) in burst mode, just can’t get enough data to the backplane in the ever-shortening times that faster and faster processors require. Fibre Channel links run at 100 MBps, and duplex links are expected at 200 MBps by the time the AS/400 supports Fibre Channel. With 800- MHz I-Stars coming in the second half of 2000, when IBM expects to deliver Fibre Channel support on the AS/400, I/O bandwidth will definitely be an issue. The other benefit of Fibre Channel peripheral attachment to AS/400s is distance. SCSI connections are limited to 25 meters, while OptiConnect fiber optic system bus interconnections on big AS/400 servers are limited to 500 meters. But Fibre Channel links can put peripherals (or mirrored servers) as much as 10 kilometers away from their production servers.

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    • Key takeaways from the AS/400 days

     

  • Ask the RDi Experts

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericWatch this recording where Jim Buck, Susan Gantner, and Charlie Guarino answered your questions, including:

    • What are the “hidden gems” in RDi that can make me more productive?
    • What makes RDi Debug better than the STRDBG green screen debugger?
    • How can RDi help me find out if I’ve tested all lines of a program?
    • What’s the best way to transition from PDM to RDi?
    • How do I convince my long-term developers to use RDi?

    This is a unique, online opportunity to hear how you can get more out of RDi.

     

  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using NodeRun.com as a pre-built development environment

     

     

  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.

     

  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.

     

     

  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption

     

     

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.