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High-Performance Storage for z14 and LinuxONE Servers

New mainframe workloads demand extraordinary storage performance, reliability and manageability. These attributes can be found in IBM Spectrum Scale and the IBM DS8000 family.

Illustrated multicolored storage cubes.

New workloads are moving to the IBM z14* and LinuxONE* servers and to the storage systems that support them. The servers were designed as agents of disruption, purpose built to consolidate next-generation workloads that originated on commodity x86 servers but now urgently need the mission-critical performance, security, reliability and efficiency of the IBM platforms. 

These workloads include many core innovations of digital transformation: artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, big data, real-time business analytics, blockchain solutions, continuously encrypted online transaction processing, hybrid multiclouds, agile DevOps, and containerized application delivery. Each new workload adds its own unique demands to the storage environment, which must now have the capability to: 

  • Rapidly ingest and organize vast amounts of structured and unstructured data
  • Provide high-volume reads and writes with rock-solid data integrity for many concurrent processes handling massive data sets
  • Maintain airtight data privacy, security and compliance
  • Deliver 99.99999% availability
  • Scale quickly and easily to accommodate data and workload growth
  • Optimize storage efficiency and cost-effectiveness
  • Enable agile support for development and collaboration

To meet these requirements, IT architects are specifying high-performance arrays that combine massive processing, storage and network capacities with seamless integration, then adding a storage management software overlay that further extends hardware performance with a logical structure designed for massively parallel throughput. To see how this combination supercharges the storage environment, let’s examine two of the leading hardware and software contenders. 

The IBM DS8880 Series: Mission-Critical Storage

The DS8000 series has been the flagship storage solution for IBM mainframes for nearly two decades, evolving continuously to provide ever-higher levels of performance, capacity, reliability and security. The current generation, the DS8880 storage systems family, combines bulletproof resilience and consistent microsecond response times in a range of business, enterprise and analytics-class capacities, and a mix of flash, disk, and hybrid configurations. It can also be integrated into an existing z14 Model ZR1, IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper II or other standard 19-inch wide racks. “The mainframe use cases we support are mission-critical,” explains Raul Raudry, IBM product manager, Storage for Big Data Analytics and High-Performance Computing. “The DS8880 data systems provide a range of storage options for that type of service that ideally balance performance, security and reliability.”

Extreme acceleration

All DS8880 systems feature a three-tiered system architecture developed to efficiently balance system resources and optimize throughput. Important performance accelerators include intelligent caching algorithms, DS8880 High-Performance

Flash Enclosure Gen2 and zHyperLink—an extreme low-latency link between the storage system and an IBM Z* host that dramatically accelerates data access. zHyperLink reduces application response time up to 90%, cutting the elapsed time of IBM Db2* transactions by half. 

“We have the industry’s fastest response times for mainframe hosts,” Raudry says. “DS8880 systems are 10x faster than other solutions from IBM or its competitors. When you apply that kind of performance to executing a transaction or completing a complex analysis, the result is customer satisfaction.” 

Mission-critical reliability

DS8880 storage delivers more than 99.99999% availability with an array of high-reliability features that include dynamic system change support, redundant hot swappable components, RAID-5, -6 and -10 configurations, internal systems monitoring, and sophisticated light path diagnostics. In addition to its exceptionally resilient architecture, the system offers an array of advanced functions for data backup, disaster recovery and cyberresilience.

Extraordinary data security

DS8880 storage systems support the pervasive encryption capabilities of IBM z14 mainframe hosts, which can encrypt 100% of your business data at high performance and low cost, without application changes or SLA impacts. Data can be encrypted in use, at rest and in motion, in applications, databases, and the cloud. Pervasive encryption vastly reduces business risk and simplifies compliance. 

Safeguarded Copy provides an additional new layer of data security with the capability to create and store up to 500 different time versions of a protected volume. The backups are stored in a special thin provisioned hidden volume that’s not host accessible and therefore is protected from accidental or intentional corruption.

Effective SMS Auditing After ABENDs

While speaking to a customer recently the conversation shifted to IT events that are so disruptive that boards of directors become involved. One such event was an ATM outage at a European bank that generated a wave of fear throughout the organization with talk of “whose head was going to roll for this.”

Every second a customer-facing mainframe application is down in a bank is critical to both revenue and reputation. Along with the urgency to get the app back online is the need for an audit trail to understand the who, what, when and how of the error. 

From a storage admin perspective, it’s important to look at the SMS configuration. Your ACS routine is likely as old as your mainframe with a poorly understood configuration and a recent change to it could have caused an unforeseen problem with the ATM application. Ruling out SMS as the root cause of your error starts with good auditing practices that rule out “blind” SMS configuration. In doing so, next time news of a failed critical customer-facing application makes it to the board room, your storage admin will be able to sleep that week.

Steve Pryor

CTO, DTS Software, Inc.

Steve has a more than 30-year background in storage management, design, and support, and speaks frequently at industry events.

Cowriter: Tony Perri, Inbound Advocates

Revolutionary efficiency and economy

Intelligent IBM Easy Tier technology helps transform IT efficiency by optimizing application performance dynamically across any DS8880 storage system with no need for manual application tuning. Easy Tier automates data placement across tiers to meet performance objectives at the most reasonable cost by identifying and moving less-frequently accessed data to the most economical drive tier. Similarly, frequently accessed data for busy workloads is automatically migrated to high-performance flash storage to ensure the lowest response times for those applications that need it. 

Another example of transformative efficiency made possible by seamless host-storage integration is Transparent Cloud Tiering. This advanced feature of DS8880 storage allows organizations to introduce hybrid cloud as a new storage tier for data archiving and disaster recovery operations on IBM Z environments. It offloads the data movement workload from the mainframe host to the storage system, freeing up 50% of host CPU resources for higher-priority applications. Transparent Cloud Tiering integrates with IBM Cloud* Object Storage and can also provide direct transparent connectivity to     IBM Cloud and Amazon S3.

“Transparent Cloud Tiering efficiently moves data to the proper medium, reducing CAPEX and OPEX while keeping the information available. It also leverages existing DS8880 infrastructure, avoiding the need to incur in additional hardware expenses,” Raudry says.

Physically superb, virtually superior

On their own merits, DS8880 systems offer an outstanding storage partner for IBM Z mainframes that’s distinguished by performance, resilience, security and efficiency. Yet in many cases, each of these value dimensions can be further enhanced by the introduction of an abstraction layer between host and storage. One such instance is when the mainframe takes on a cluster-based workload in which many virtualized clients require parallel access to a shared file system. Another is when a storage system directly connected to a mainframe server is also part of a distributed storage environment in which large-scale data movement and replication is common. In such cases, adding a virtualization layer to insert logical structure and manageability can pay real dividends. 

Storage Software Evolved: IBM Spectrum Scale

Spectrum Scale is part of the IBM Spectrum* Storage family of software-defined storage solutions. The enterprise-grade parallel file system provides superior resiliency, scalability and control. It also supports IBM z14 and LinuxONE Emperor II. Based on IBM General Parallel File system (GPFS*), Spectrum Scale delivers scalable capacity and performance to handle demanding data analytics, AI data pipelines, content repositories and technical computing workloads. 

Simplifying data management at scale

IBM Spectrum Scale seamlessly handles tens of thousands of clients, billions of files and yottabytes of data, providing integrated management tools and an intuitive GUI to help manage data at scale. The system can span multiple storage environments and data centers, and can automatically distribute and replicate data across storage systems to optimize utilization, performance, security, and business continuity. IBM Spectrum Scale is the caretaker of business-critical data with the capability to replicate, encrypt, compress and distribute data across different hardware platforms, systems, and data centers.

Improving mixed storage performance and economy 

With IBM Spectrum Scale, storage administrators can combine flash, disk, cloud and tape storage into a unified system with higher performance and lower cost than traditional approaches. It provides a single namespace for all of this data, and a single point of management with an intuitive GUI. Using storage policies transparent to end users, data can be compressed or tiered to tape or cloud to help cut costs; data can also be tiered to high-performance media, including server cache, to lower latency and improve performance.

Enabling global collaboration

IBM Spectrum Scale enables low-latency read and write access to data from anywhere in the world using Advanced File Management (AFM) distributed routing and advanced caching technology. AFM expands the IBM Spectrum Scale global namespace across geographical distances, providing high-performance, location-independent data access that accelerates project schedules and improves productivity for globally distributed teams.

Innovative Storage and Data Management

IBM storage solutions that leverage the combined capabilities and IBM Z integrations of DS8880 storage systems and Spectrum Scale software can deliver the performance, security, reliability and scalability that are essential for today’s evolving mainframe workloads. 

Learn more about IBM storage infrastructure solutions.

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