IBM boosts speed on high-end storage products

IBM Corp. made a high-speed networking technology available on one of the company's main storage products Tuesday, giving users better data transfer rates on mainframe-class hardware and opening new ways to link storage products with a user's existing infrastructure.

IBM will now support a high speed I/O technology called Fiber Connection (FICON) on its TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server (code named Shark). FICON connects mainframe computers to storage devices, allowing data to transfer between the hardware 6 times faster than current ESCON (Enterprise System Connection) technology, said Chris Saul, program marketing manager for Shark products at IBM. In addition, since FICON is a Fibre Channel-based connector, users can connect to hardware in SAN (storage area network) environments that also use Fibre Channel.

Large customers sending huge amounts of information across their servers and storage products have started to push the limits of ESCON technology and have been awaiting more FICON-ready products, Saul said.

IBM claims it has taken a strong lead with FICON technology, which is controlled by a standards body. Neither Hitachi Ltd. or EMC Corp. have yet to announce a FICON product, according to Saul.

IBM also added Tuesday several other pieces of new hardware to its storage arsenal. The company will sell two new models of its Virtual Tape Server (VTS), which for the first time will use copper chip technology. The B20 VTS and B10 VTS should offer much higher data write rates than older VTS products, Saul said. Available later in the third quarter, the B10 version with a entry-level configuration is US$80,000, and the B20 with an entry-level configuration is $230,000.

IBM additionally released the TotalStorage SAN Controller 160, which is a serial disk controller built to provide Fibre Channel connections for Unix servers from IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. along with Windows NT/2000 servers.

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