IBM i and its predecessor the AS/400 have always been known for reliability, integration, dependability, ease of use, and of course full functionality. To this end, most of the systems even today are sold with internal storage. It’s just another piece of the IBM i integration puzzle. From the setup, to the administration, to the day to day use of the storage is so easy with internal disk. Yet, the industry is changing. External storage and specifically Storage Area Networks (SANs) are one of the hottest topics in IT today. Why, I believe part of it has to do with virtualization, and the other part is cost.
If every server (Power, Windows, Linux, etc.) or partition has its own independent storage, then I have to manage all the storage independently. This increases our administrative costs, as well as the skills required to manage our storage. In addition, if one system is using 20% of its storage, and another system is using 98% of its storage, it is usually not possible to move the storage from one server to the other. This is where virtualization plays a key part to drive down our administrative costs and acquisition costs, but can increase the skills required to manage the new virtualization. On the IBM Power platform, we have VIO Server (You might hear this called VIOS or Virtual I/O Server) to help with storage virtualization. VIO Server is extremely powerful when it comes to virtualizing storage and networking, but it does require some additional skills that most IBM i shops don’t have, since VIO Server is a subset of IBM’s AIX operating system. VIO Server can connect to almost any external storage. This is probably its biggest virtualization benefit. So, you may be wondering why IBM i can’t connect to everything. IBM i uses 520 byte sectors for disk, and the industry uses 512 byte disk sectors. Most SANs use 512 byte sectors, which provides difficulty for IBM i to connect to. Although, you can connect VIO Server to the storage, and then let VIO Server virtualize the storage to IBM i. This works great, but again you have to have VIO Server skills.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was an IBM i like Storage Area Network. One that was easy to use, easy to administer, competitively priced, had a great GUI front end, and connected to IBM i directly. Well, up until last week I would have said that the IBM Storwize V7000 was all that, except you had to have VIO Server host the storage to IBM i. As of today, the IBM i can directly attach to the IBM Storwize V7000 and its lower priced brother the Storwize V3700, and this is great news for IBM i. It’s the best of two worlds coming together.
The V7000 is enterprise class storage at an affordable price that is ease to use and manage. It has a remarkably easy to use GUI interface that is intuitive and almost self-guiding. Each time I have used the GUI I am just amazed at the graphics. The V7000 uses the same code that you will find in many of the IBM SANs, such as the SAN Volume Controller (SVC), and includes so many enterprise class options enabled. By the way, if you have ever looked at PureFlex system, it also comes with an integrated V7000 for storage. Some of the features includes with the Storwize V7000 are:
- Thin Provisioning – storage is not allocated until data is written
- Full Copy of volumes and space efficient snapshot offloads CPU resources from Hypervisor hosts
- Easy Tier™ – automated tiering between SSD and HDD storage
- Real-Time Compression – Automatically compress data with no performance impact.
- Remote Mirroring – with Global and Metro Mirror.
- Non-Disruptive data migration within and between internal and external storage
The Storwize V7000 Unified allows you to use this storage for both your block (IBM i & AIX) and file (Windows) capabilities. It has support for NFS/CIFS/FTP/HTTPS/SCP file protocols in addition to existing block protocols (iSCSI and FCP). There is file replication and snapshots for business continuity and disaster recovery in addition to existing block functions.
I believe we will see a new era starting right now in midrange disk with the ability of IBM i to directly attach to the IBM Storwize V7000 & V3700. IBM i will be able to connect via a Fibre Channel Adapter over Fabric (via a Fibre Switch) or directly using a Fibre card. I see many new Power Systems running IBM i having a V7000 or V3700 to handle the needs of its storage, and the storage for the rest of the enterprise. I know this is what many of iTech Solutions customers will be requiring over the next few years as we work together to drive down their costs of storage acquisition, and allow for easier storage management all from a single interface.