IBM Reveals Virtual Tape Backup for Mainframes

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2006-09-21 Print this article Print

New autonomic backup engine includes loads of futuristic technology to use in older, Big Hunk-type servers.

Most data storage news these days is all about open systems storage—networks that link up to thousands of servers and desktop machines. IBM, however, is one of those few companies still working on improving the venerable mainframe computer model.

Big Blue unveiled some new heavy metal backup for those big machines Sept. 21 with the introduction of its System Storage TS7700 Virtualization Engine, a virtual tape appliance designed to protect data in tape archives for mainframes.

The new product—which includes hardware, software and services—also features grid-ready connectivity and automated replication in case of a data loss disaster, an IBM spokesperson said.

The new TS7700 is built on a new hardware and software architecture that incorporates "global awareness functionality," the spokesperson said.

With this utility, data can reside on the new machines at different sites, yet each unit is able to autonomically track where the data is located and access it.

This design improves disaster recovery capabilities. For example, the TS7700 can automatically duplicate data to another TS7700 at a second site over standard TCP/IP communications.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., also announced plans to expand this capability to TS7700s located at three different sites in the future, the spokesperson said.

The TS7700 is one of the first examples of IBM's use of autonomic computing software within a commercial product.

Autonomic computing is a form of artificial intelligence that allows a computing system to locate and identify programming and other system errors and make corrections without the help of a human administrator.

Autonomic computing also enables a computer to "think for itself" in the event of a disaster; for example, in the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake, a computer with autonomic intelligence is able to move data automatically to another location without the aid of an IT administrator.

"IBM was the first company to introduce a tape virtualization solution in 1997," said Cindy Grossman, vice president, tape storage systems.

"This ... allows our customers to manage their data from online application storage to offline, permanent archive media."

The TS7700 will serve as the replacement for the current IBM virtual tape product, TotalStorage Virtual Tape Server. It features a new controller based on the advanced IBM System p server to form a storage hierarchy managed by storage management firmware with extensive self-management (autonomic) capability.

IBM and Sun clash in tape storage, encryption war. Click here to read more.

It includes functions such as advanced policy management to control physical volume pooling, cache management, dual copy, automatic copy across a grid network and copy mode controls.

The TS7700 offers a new standards-based management interface and enhanced statistical reporting, the spokesperson said.

Technical Details

The TS7700 Virtualization Engine contains a TS7740 Server, which provides host connection of up to four FICON channels, and connections to the tape library and tape drives for back-end tape processing.

A TS7700 with Grid Communication features can be interconnected with another TS7700 to provide peer-to-peer copy capability between Virtualization Engines for tape using IP network connections.

The TS7740 Server cache provides over 6TB of tape volume cache capacity before compression. Each TS7700 supports up to a maximum of 128 3490E virtual tape drives and up to 500,000 logical volumes, each with a maximum capacity of 1.2GB (assuming 3:1 compression) to 12GB (assuming 3:1 compression and using the 400 to 4000 MB volume sizes).

On Sept. 12, IBM introduced the industry's first tape drive with drive-based encryption capabilities, the IBM System Storage TS1120.

The TS7700 Virtualization Engine will be available beginning Sept. 29 with a starting list price of $493,080.

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