SHARE Columbus (Aug. 21-26) is right around the corner, and mainframers are looking forward to learning more about the new IBM z16 platform, especially given the buzz with the on-chip artificial intelligence inferencing and its quantum-safe technologies available. Leading up to the event in August, Howard Johnson, technology architect (FICON) at Broadcom, shared some insights into his forthcoming session, "Ahead by Design — The z16 and FICON SAN Best Practices."
Johnson says that his session will examine the full impact of 32G channels when connected to Gen 7 Storage Area Network (SAN) infrastructure. Attendees will learn how to properly manage oversubscription situations while avoiding congestion due to mixed-speed devices; which elements are required to support IBM Fibre Channel Endpoint Security; what the best practices for zoning and deploying Fibre Connectivity (FICON) and FCP traffic concurrently are; and how to properly evaluate the deployment of 64G storage infrastructure with the use of FICON logical switches. He expects the top takeaways from his session to be the positive impact of utilizing SAN deployment best practices, the value and benefits of a 64GFC SAN infrastructure, and the importance of staying "Ahead by Design" with the SAN.
Best Practices for Current Channel Capabilities
The introduction of 32G channels has transformed the mainframe's input/output flows from predominantly 16G flows to a mix of 16G and 32G flows. Johnson explains there are impacts for customers with older equipment running at 4G because the new channels do not support those speeds. Customers will need to isolate the older devices to prevent congestion that can result from mixed flows accessing the same resources (e.g. interswitch links (ISL), storage, or channels).
"For example, if 16G flows and 32G flows share the same ISL, the 16G flow will negatively impact the 32G flow to the point where the 32G flows operate at 16G," he says. "This situation effectively eliminates the benefit the 32G channels bring to the data center, and I'll address how best to deploy the new channels in order to avoid this kind of impact."
Best Practices for Storage Access
Storage administrators use zoning to provide access control, isolating specific devices from one another. However, FICON environments often operate based on the hardware configuration definition (HCD) in the mainframe, meaning many FICON customers don't use zoning or they create one large zone. "The primary best practice in zoning for FICON is to match the HCD to limit the 'noise' from other devices," says Johnson. "Secondarily, creating separate zones or even separate virtual fabrics for fibre channel protocol (FCP) traffic is another best practice. Both of these methodologies will be addressed during the session."
In terms of SAN deployment, Johnson says most best practices include recommendations from SAN vendors that enhance the overall storage network deployment experience. Benefits from these recommendations often include reduced downtime, excellent resiliency, and better flexibility during migrations.
According to Johnson, "the z16 brings mainframe channel technology into the mainstream of Fibre Channel device capacities — let's embrace it!" He points out that Fibre Channel has been the leading storage interconnect for the last 25 years and more. While there are faster or even cheaper alternatives, Johnson warns that they do not have the inherent qualities that ensure reliable data transactions like those of Fibre Channel.
Like other technologies, Fibre Channel must evolve alongside the end devices and technologies (i.e. the forthcoming PCIe Gen 4 and PCIe Gen5). To do that, it must be capable of providing the bandwidth necessary to exploit these new capabilities. Along with practical advice for mainframe storage infrastructure, "Ahead by Design" will provide insights into the future of the SAN technology ecosystem and is a wonderful opportunity to learn and share experiences, Johnson says.
Register for SHARE Columbus today and check out the SHARE Columbus z16 Roadmap to plan out your must-see sessions.