In an effort to sink its teeth deeper into the storage industry, IBM recently announced the delivery of enhancements to its enterprise storage server, code-named Shark.

According to IBM, Shark is a large capacity disk sub-system that ranges from 4,200GB to 11 terabytes, and is designed to attach multiple servers of different types.

Dean Underwood, IBM’s director of marketing for Shark, said IBM has introduced the ability to provide different ways of managing data.

“We call the implementation…Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy or PPRC,” Underwood said. “Essentially that allows you to copy data from one Shark to another Shark (in a remote location). (For example) if I had a disaster in site A, I have a real-time copy of my data in site B.”

Underwood added that implementing disaster plans is key for businesses running seven by 24 operations.

The enhanced version of Shark includes what IBM calls Flash Copy, which essentially, according to Underwood, makes a copy of data within the Shark server.

“What Flash Copy does is create a point-in-time copy,” he said. “Let’s say it’s a copy of my on-line order-entry database. I would like to have a copy of that data as of midnight last night. I want to be able to back it up separately without affecting the current operation. You can think of it as non-disruptive back-up.”

Flash Copy can be performed through the console or done automatically from an application, Underwood added.

Enhancing interoperability was a strong driver for the addition of Native Fibre Channel connectivity between Shark and Sun, HP, and Novel NetWare, the company said. Underwood said the reason for the support of different platforms is a simple case of demand.

“Server decisions and storage decisions are being made separately,” he said. “Everybody is embracing openness. It’s been a war of words for a long time. Now it’s put up or shut up and everybody is recognizing that (they) have to support a variety of storage devices, a variety of SAN devices (in order to) claim (to be) open.”

Paul Zimmer, director of data centre and technical services for Spartan Stores in Grand Rapids, Mich., said he will be using the product, and that PPRC will bring Spartan the most benefit at this point.

“The way we plan to use is to remotely copy data on all three major platforms: NT, UNIX and mainframe to our remote database,” Zimmer said. “What we used to do was cart our tapes off to Chicago and then recover our systems. What we’ll have now is the most current data and servers that can be brought up to, number one, test our disaster recovery, and in the event of a true disaster, recover our systems much more quickly than we could have done otherwise.”

Zimmer noted that the SAN is an evolving concept that is going to continue to evolve over the next few years.

“I think we are all waiting for SANs,” he said. “There are a lot of companies that say they have them, but all you need to do is read the industry press to realize a lot of the functionality is not there yet.”

Underwood said that although IBM’s competitors have similar technologies, the key difference, he said, is in the time it takes to create a copy.

“We believe that we have better performance,” Underwood said. “We also provide greater flexibility in how you use the actual disk drives and how you may choose to use them in making multiple copies of data. Some competitive installations do not have the same flexibility that we do.”

Underwood said that the demand for the enhanced Shark is heavy, and he expects many Shark customers will embrace the new technology over the next few months.

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