Tape Storage

IBM Storage Development Celebrates 40 years in Tucson Arizona

By Tony Pearson posted Fri May 25, 2018 03:27 PM


Originally posted by: TonyPearson

This month, IBM Tucson Development Lab is celebrating 40 year anniversary! IBM has been operating in Arizona for the past 70 years, and of course IBM has been in the storage business for the past 90 years if you consider "punched cards" as storage on paper.

This year also marks the 40 year anniversary of DFHSM, the first product I worked on when I started here back in 1986. DFHSM stands for the Data Facility Hierarchical Storage Manager, which effectively moves data between disk and tape storage.


IBM put up two banners to celebrate! The first was for IBM Enterprise Tape storage. My first question was "What are punched cards doing on a banner for magnetic tape?"

A bit of history will explain that the first tape storage was non-magnetic. Back in 1725, Basile Bouchon developed the control of a loom by punched holes in paper tape. These were used to create intricate patterns in woven cloth.

In the late 1880s, Herman Hollerith, a young technical whiz at the US Census Bureau, had an idea for a machine that could count and sort census results far faster than human clerks. The bureau funded Hollerith’s work, and the [first tabulating machines] helped count the 1890 census, saving the bureau several years’ work and more than US$5 million.

Hollerith left the bureau to form the Tabulating Machine Company, selling his system to other countries’ census offices and then to businesses such as railroads and retailers. Hollerith had little competition, and his machines and punched cards became the standard for the industry.

In 1911, financier Charles Flint bought the Tabulating Machine Company and merged it with the International Time Recording Company and the Computing Scale Company of America to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, or C-T-R, later renamed IBM in 1924.

In 1928, IBM introduced a new version of the punched card with rectangular holes and 80 columns. The 80-character standard was used from everything from the first computer screens, to the first file layouts

It wasn't until 1952 that the first magnetic tape system hit the scene: the IBM model 726. Tape reels were the size of pizzas, and were prominently shown spinning around in various Hollywood movies to represent computers "working" on a problem.

In my now infamous 2007 post [Hu Yoshida should know better], I explain the 3850 Mass Storage System (MSS). In 1974, The IBM 3850 MSS was one of the first hybrid disk-and-tape storage systems. It was an automated tape library pretending to be disk, with tape cartridges stored in hexagonal honeycomb shelves. The tape cartridges were cylindrical, about the size of a can of soda. The spool of 770 feet of tape media held just 5MB of data.

A full IBM 3850 MSS configuration with thousands of tape cartridges was used for the 1980 US Census, holding 102 GB database, representing the data collected about 226.5 million U.S. residents. That's about 450 bytes per resident, enough to fill six punched cards.

In 1984, [IBM re-imagined tape media] again, to square cartridges: the IBM 3480.

Two years later, I joined IBM in 1986, the year IBM introduced "improved data recording capability" capability for the IBM 3480, the first industry use of compression for tape magnetic media.

In 2012, IBM celebrated the [60 year anniversary of Tape Systems].


The second banner was for IBM Enterprise Disk storage.

IBM introduced the IT industry's first commercial disk system in 1956. While the banner says "RAMAC 305", that is the name of the server. The storage system was called the [350 Disk Storage Unit]. It was the size of two refrigerators and held 5 MB of data.

In the early 1990s, I visited a client in Germany that had a 3990 controller with two 3390 disk systems attached, holding 90 GB of data in the size of three refrigerators. They had five storage administrators to manage this configuration.

A few years later at another client, they had roughly 7000 GB (7 TB) of data on their mainframe, and an equal amount across all of their Windows and UNIX servers. I met with their storage administrators, there were two for the mainframe, and about three dozen for the distributed servers.

I had two questions for them. First, why were there two storage admins for the mainframe? The mature policy-based automation on the platform would mean only one person required. Their response: when one of us is on a two-week vacation, the other can handle the workload.

My second question was for the remaining storage admins: When was the last time any of you took a two-week vacation? None had, of course, since the storage administration tools back then meant they were all working overtime on various tedious and manual tasks!

In February 2006, the folks in IBM Germany asked the IBM Storage Marketing team what events or celebration were planned for September 13, 2016, the 50 year anniversary of disk. My marketing colleagues responded, "that is only seven months away, you didn't give us enough lead time notice to plan!"

To help with celebration, I launched this blog in September 2006, and mentioned the [50 year anniversary of Disk Systems] in one of my first posts.

Next month, June 16, to be precise, marks my own 32 year anniversary working on IBM Storage. It is fun to look back at all we have accomplished!