SAN FRANCISCO -- Emphasizing its commitment to mainframe storage, Sun Microsystems Inc. today revealed performance enhancements and promised more improvements to its StorageTek Virtual Storage Manager (VSM) virtual tape at the Storage Decisions conference.
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Jay Wallace, marketing director for Sun mainframe storage, said VSM's throughput has improved 53% since the latest version, VSM 5, rolled out last September. He said the virtual tape library (VTL) now performs a sustained write at 613 MBps, up from 400 MBps 15 months ago. "That's the most realistic way for customers to measure performance," Wallace said.
In any case, Wallace said that Sun has long-range plans to support mainframe storage because of strong demand in financial services and other large shops. "Our largest customers have mainframe and open systems and do not intermix them," he said.
Database marketing firm KnowledgeBase Management is one of those shops running mainframe and open systems. Brian Camp, KnowledgeBase's vice president of infrastructure, said he hasn't benchmarked the sustained write throughput since Sun's upgrade but has observed a performance boost. "It has such a noticeable effect that a lot of my mainframe users thought we had upgraded CPUs on the mainframe," he said. He said channel utilization also dropped from around 85% to between 5% and 10%.
Camp agrees that the mainframe still has a long life in the data center. He said KnowledgeBase uses an IBM zSeries mainframe, as well as about 100 Windows servers and 100 Unix servers to process more than 60 billion transactions per year. He used VSM to help upgrade to a new mainframe when he moved his data center, which includes a StorageTek 9985 high-end SAN system and SL8500 enterprise tape library, from Houston to Dallas last year.
"Getting rid of the mainframe is on everybody's five-year list. Then the next year, it's still on the five-year list," Camp said. "There's not a platform out there that does as well as the mainframe does relative to batch processing. A lot of features haven't been replicated on open systems. There are a lot of products that do hierarchical storage management, but none do it as well as the mainframe."
Although VTL has been replicated on open systems by a slew of vendors, Sun isn't one of them. After years of struggling to develop a VTL for open systems, Sun last year killed the VSM Open project it inherited when it acquired StorageTek. Sun offers open system VTL products through OEM deals with FalconStor Software Inc. and Diligent Technologies Corp.
Camp said KnowledgeBase doesn't use any VTL for its open systems. "We haven't seen a need for it," he said. "We use disk-to-disk backup and take it from there to tape."
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