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April 8, 1996


By CBR Staff Writer

IBM has set a launch year for the Seastar controller, part of the long awaited Seascape strategy, and come up with unconvincing reasons why it has been delayed. Seastar is a one-stop storage system that should let users transparently access tape, optical and DASD data from Unix and mainframe sites. It will ship sometime in 1998, the delay has been partly because we needed the larger 9Gb disks in RAMAC 3 before we could start shipping the product and partly because we had to make sure we had the manufacturing costs right, said Paul O’Neil, IBM’s general manager for large systems storage division. IBM’s hand may have been forced because of mounting pressure from rival EMC. It launched a Symmetrix Enterprise Systems Platform capable of sharing data between Unix and mainframes last year and if IBM had kept to its original deadline it would have had a rival offering in the market place 15 months later. The delay pulled this schedule back almost two years. A late entry into this market, some analysts argue, will mean that IBM faces losing valuable market share to EMC. However, John Horton a storage analyst at IDC disagrees, IBM can still do good volumes with RAMAC 2, combined with its Adstar management software it is a strong distributed storage management product. IBM’s O’Neil also argues that EMC’s ESP offering is not as technically advanced as Seastar will be. Technically its very difficult to write bits between Unix and mainframe systems, EMC’s gets around this by partitioning the CPU, that’s not true data sharing. O’Neil also believes that it will be a few years before this can be economically viable and therefore IBM’s shipment of Seastar will be well-timed. Currently the economics don’t add up, mainframe storage prices are currently around $2 per gigabyte, Unix prices are between 50 cents and $1, why would anyone want to spend twice the amount on their Unix data just to access mainframe data as well? According to O’Neil IBM will ship RAMAC 3 in the first quarter of next year. Until then it will focus on increasing the salability, reliability and performance of RAMAC 2 devices, some of which were announced at the CeBit show in Hanover, Germany, earlier this month. They include the addition of a dynamic address switching function known as P/DAS to the 3990-6 controller to enable automatic data transfer to another control unit in the event of system failure. The function works up to a distance of 43 km enabling data to be mirrored to a remote site without any interruption in system performance, IBM said. IBM has also increased the cache memory within the RAMAC 2 controller from 2 Mb to 3 Mb, with a 4 Mb option and enabled the controller to support older 3380-k track format. Many customers still use applications stored on the 3380 format because they’re difficult to port to the new 3390-6 format. This facility enables them to mix 3380 and 3390 formats and phase out their 3380 units, said Paul O’Neil, The upgrades will start shipping in July.

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