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IBM touts Fibre Connectivity in hardware offerings

IBM announced yesterday that its virtual tape servers would soon be able to connect disk storage to mainframes via Fibre Connectivity (FICON), a move that could increase performance by about 75%.

It said it has Fiber Connected its virtual tape servers, which are hard disk devices that appear to mainframes as tape drives but enable data to be recorded at disk speeds. The data can then be downloaded offline to tape silos.

FICON channels increase I/O capacity through the combination of a new architecture and faster physical link rates, making them up to six times as efficient as Enterprise System Connection (ESCON), IBM's previous fibre-optic channel standard.

IBM has sold about 100,000 TotalStorage Virtual Tape Servers (VTS) - the V10 and V20 - which connect via ESCON to mainframes. ESCON has peak data transfer rates of 17Mbytes/sec., compared with 100Mbytes/sec. of FICON.

Dianne McAdam, an analyst at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H., said the FICON upgrade and faster data transfer rates will go a long way to reducing backup times for mainframe users.

IBM added that it would upgrade the VTS management software to include volume pooling, which allows a storage administrator to save similar data and volume sets together on the same set of tape cartridges.

For example, if a company has customer data related to a specific operation, that data could be saved to one set of tapes automatically, making removal and warehousing of the data simpler.

The VTS Advanced Policy Management package costs $30,000 and will include a dual-copy feature that automatically creates a copy of data on to another set of cartridges for disaster recovery. Upgrades to existing VTS Advanced Policy Management packages start at $5,000.

IBM's VTS software upgrades begin shipping on 26 July. The VTS FICON will be generally available by the end of January next year.

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