ServersServer Snapshots: IBM System Storage DS8000 Turbo

Server Snapshots: IBM System Storage DS8000 Turbo

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Drew Robb

For fast access to huge volumes of data, Big Blue’s high-performance Fibre Channel array is hard to beat.

The IBM System Storage DS8000 Turbo series offers fast access to a huge volume of data. This high-performance Fibre Channel (FC) array provides 16 to 1,024 disks ranging from 73 GB up to 300 GB each. Alternatively, lower-performance 500 GB drives are available to boost the potential disk capacity to 512 TB.

Recently, the DS800 Turbo series was augmented with the IBM System Storage Productivity Center (SSPC). This is basically a storage console that provides a single view into an organization’s storage systems. The idea is to ease the storage administrator’s workload through a consolidated view for management and configuration. For those with mixed environments, SSPC provides a view of both IBM- and non-IBM storage gear.

“The GUI provides a comprehensive topology view of the SAN, from which the administrator can explore the health of the environment at an aggregate or in-depth view,” said Alice Bird, enterprise disk storage marketing manager for IBM (Armonk, N.Y.). “Customers can also license IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center Standard Edition to enable more-detailed performance reporting, asset and capacity reporting, and the automation of many manual SAN tasks.”

The DS8000 Turbo is IBM’s flagship disk array. In addition to the above software upgrades, its most recent makeover includes IBM FlashCopy SE, which takes snapshots without consuming huge amounts of disk space. Another enhancement is Dynamic Volume Expansion, which removes the pain of expanding the size of existing volumes.

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Further additions are Storage Pool Striping, Adaptive Multi-stream Pre-fetching (AMP) and the IBM z/OS Global Mirror Multiple Reader. Storage Pool Striping speeds data access and processing through improved data placement. AMP is a caching technology that can potentially double the throughput and reduce processing time for backup and batch processing. Global Mirror Multiple Reader is designed to optimize throughput for remote mirroring for those running IBM System z.

Different Architecture

The DS8000 series doesn’t have the same architecture as typical high-end RAID arrays. It actually has its roots in the Symmetrical Multi-Processing (SMP) server — the DS8000 integrates two System p5 570 servers. Each host and the disk port adapter card is also powered by a PowerPC processor.

“The DS8000 uses a 3-level processor design, as opposed to the 2-level design of its major competitors, which limit their processors to only their front-end and back-end directors with no shared middle level of processors,” said analyst Josh Krischer of Josh Krischer & Associates GmbH, Data Center consulting of Germany. “The additional level of processors in the DS8000 provides two pools of shared processor capacity that can be applied towards all tasks in the system (one pool per cluster side). The net result is that more resources can be applied as needed to process an application workload, which can positively impact throughput and application response time.”

It is not surprising, therefore, that DS8000 customers tend toward large organizations requiring the highest levels of reliability, performance and scalability from disk storage systems to support mission-critical applications.

“We have customers in a wide range of private enterprises and government organizations that need support for a variety of major server platforms, including IBM z/OS, z/VM, OS/400, i5/OS and AIX operating systems, as well as Linux, HP-UX, Sun Solaris, Novell NetWare, VMware and Microsoft Windows environments,” said Bird. “With such broad platform support, the DS8000 series can easily accommodate a comprehensive list of applications.”

She characterized these customers as typically having more than 1,000 employees. In such companies, IBM targets its marketing efforts at storage and data center directors and administrators, application business unit executives (e.g., those responsible for business intelligence or data warehouses), compliance executives and C-level executives.

On the competitive side, the DS8000 series competes primarily with enterprise-class disk systems from EMC (Hopkinton, Mass.), Hitachi Data Systems (Santa Clara, Calif.), HP (Palo Alto, Calif.) and Sun Microsystems (Santa Clara, Calif.). Bird stated that its superior architecture means IBM came out on top enough of the time for the company to set a record for DS8000 shipments in 2007.

Krischer pointed out that in addition to the extra processors, the caching setup is an advantage. Instead of an add-on cache, the cache in the DS8000 is allocated as part of the System p server memory. It thus delivers better processor speed, L1/L2 cache and memory bandwidth.

“Each side of the cluster has its own cache and the Non Volatile Storage (NVS) of the other cluster side, to provide data integrity protection in case of a side failure,” said Krischer. “The effective cache capacity size approximately equals the installed size.”

This, he said, contrasts with the EMC DMX-4 array, which has a fully mirrored cache for both writes and reads, and thus an effective cache size only half of the cache purchased.

The DS8000 comes in a couple of flavors. At the low end is the DS8100, which has from 16 to 384 disks and a maximum of 192 TB. A small box with a 2 x 2-way processor, 1.1TB disk, 16GB cache, 2 x 4-port 4Gbps FC host adapters and cables, operating environment license, Subsystem Device Driver (SDD and Multipathing/load balancing software, graphical and application user interfaces, user configurable RAID5/RAID10, IBM installation, one-year warranty on hardware and licensed functions is available for around $200,000.

The DS8300, on the other hand, can stretch all the way to 1,024 disks and 512TB. With a 2 x 4-way processor, 18TB of disk and 64GB cache, it is priced at around $600,000. The Full Monty — 512 TB of disk and 256GB memory with licensing for mirroring, FlashCopy and all the rest — is several million dollars.

IBM System Storage DS8000 Turbo

Name IBM System Storage DS8000 Turbo
Vendor IBM
Platform POWER5+
Dimensions From 193 cm by 84.7 cm by 118.3 cm to 193 cm by 254.1 cm by 118.3 cm (DS8300 with two expansion frames)
Processor Details POWER5+ dual 2-way (DS81000), POWER5+ dual 4-way (DS8300); PowerPC and ASICs also an option
Hard Drives From 73 GB (15,000 rpm) to 500 GB (7,200 rpm) FAT
Operating Systems z/OS, z/VM, OS/400, i5/OS, AIX, Linux, HP-UX, Solaris and Windows, as well as NetWare and VMware
Configuration Options DS8100: from 16 to 384 disks and a maximum of 192 TB, priced from $200,000;
DS8300: Up to 1,024 disks and 512TB, is priced at around $600,000
Availability Generally available
Warranty From one to four years, depending on the model type

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