Tape Storage

Tale of the "Tape", Modernizing zStorage with IBM TS7770

By Shawn Brume posted Tue December 01, 2020 04:35 PM


Hybrid cloud ( #hybridcloud) strategies require planning. Specifically planning around the required SLAs for critical data, regulatory compliance and security.  Data Center mainframe modernization efforts often call for reduction in costs associated with the data center and investment in tape.  Mainframe data is not like user files. Lost, stolen, or ransomed data is not just inconvenient, it could lead to complete business failure.  Although cloud is maturing and enabling business outcomes will require sharing of mainframe data on “open platforms”, critical data continues to require more control than standard distributed systems data.

Image 1: IBM TS7770 and Physical tape as part of the hybrid Cloud infrastructure for #IBMZ Storage

What is driving the call for moving data from mainframe systems to the cloud? According to industry leading analyst firms, the top drivers of moving mainframe data to cloud are cost savings, cost reallocation (capex to opex) and reducing tape infrastructure spend.  There is no arguing cost reallocation.  Moving data to a managed cloud or subscription service will reallocate the charges from capex to opex.  Let’s take a look at the cost reduction and reduction of tape infrastructure costs.

Infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders should be mindful of all of the impacts associated with moving data to an off-premises cloud.  The initial pricing can be very tempting when doing a base raw calculation, however the initial pricing is just the beginning.  Assess the price for performance metric along with all associated costs of moving the data.  Manages Storage providers often have hidden fees and vague SLAs on the cost reduction storage plans.  This is great if your data is simply archive data, not so great if the data is only cold.  On average, mainframe archive data has an 8% retrieval rate.  On-premises mainframe storage provides minutes to archive data access with no cost or performance impact.  Data is also available at the host as soon as it is retrieved.  Cloud storage can result in 24 hours to first data access and that is before it is transferred back to the host.  I&O leaders should also inquire about data management in the cloud. Do you need a CASB? What about administration for ACL?  What about connectivity assessments by information security teams?  This all adds up, and must be taken into consideration when modernizing storage behind z Systems.

Image 2: NASA loves #AWSfor archive data, now they have to figure out how to pay for it.  NASA overage was created by retrieval and recall of data charges.


BUT, doesn’t this all result in savings on tape infrastructure?  That is an interesting hypothesis. Costs for storage do not disappear, critical data has different requirements than other data.  35% of mainframes attach to some sort of physical tape, approximately 92% of mainframes attach to a Virtual Tape Library(VTL). In recent years software companies have focused on replacing VTLs with software that exports data to object storage or other distributed systems storage. Mainframe attached VTLs are not just for back-up, they are a critical part of the mainframe storage infrastructure supporting all data not in the tier 0,1 data class.  Contrary to popular Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), VTLs are high performance systems that automate the data storage process behind mainframes. VTLs are hyperconverged appliances, based on modern principles of durability, continuity, reliability and usability in design.  The typical cost of infrastructure is in-line with other HDD based storage.  When contrasted to other storage choices like SDS, cloud first initiatives, the compression capability of the TS7700 VTL infrastructure can be lower cost than cloud archives with disk performance. Not to mention that mainframe storage administrators are only managing one HCA and can typically set up the system and let it reliably run behind the mainframe, enabling the admins to focus on supporting new business initiatives.

Image 3: Solutions Cost comparison using standard compression rates on a logarithmic scale
Image 4: Solutions Cost comparison using standard compression rates and cost per GB per month Cloud provider comparison

TS7770 also enables seamless data storage tier management in a hybrid cloud environment. Data ingest is via high performance FICON or Object Storage from the integrated transfer functionality with the IBM DS8800. This performance is supported by high performance IBM Flash 5000 storage managed by the TS7770 controller. TS7770 manages all types of workloads, archive is a subset of what is managed.  Archive data, including archive backups can be tiered to Physical tape at a fraction of the cost of any disk or cloud storage (fact check with the IBM Tape TCO Tool).  If cloud is mandated, the TS7770 is fully capable of tiering data to S3 API supported Object Storage.   All this while enabling business continuity through grid cloud connectivity.  All of these capabilities are automated by the TS7770  #hyperconvergedappliance HCA.

Image 5: #TS7700 offered in IBM Rack or ready for installation in Client Supplied Rack

Regardless of how you measure cost of storage in your data center, a TS7770 HCA provides the lowest cost price for performance, reduces the complexity of data management across disparate storage systems while assuring a complaint, secure infrastructure.