IBM bolsters mainframe fibre links

Customers looking to build high-speed interconnections among multiple data centres for distributed applications, disaster recovery or CPU redundancy may be interested in a new box from IBM.

The firm's mainframe S/390 division is rolling out the IBM 2029 Fibre Saver, a dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) device. Based on Nortel Networks' switching technology, the 2029 will let users set up high-speed machine mirroring and remote disk copying functions. IBM buys the devices from Nortel and customises them for mainframe connectivity.

The 2029 Fibre Saver replaces IBM's wave division multiplexing (WDM) box, the 9729 Muxmaster, which Big Blue has been quietly phasing out. The 2029 will offer up to 64 channels of connectivity, as opposed to the 9729's 10 channels. Because the 2029 supports DWDM, multiple protocols can be multiplexed over a single fibre-optic cable.

Reducing fibre

A DWDM switch uses wavelengths of light to scramble and then send different types of traffic, such as ATM, voice or video, over a fibre link. A second DWDM switch receives this data and unscrambles it for transmission to the end destination. With DWDM devices, various types of traffic can be sent over a single fibre strand. Traditional WDM devices require a dedicated strand for each traffic type. Besides Nortel, other DWDM players include Adva Optical Solutions and Ericsson.

Of late, customer S/390s have been outstripping the 9729's capacities, so IBM decided it was a better to partner with a company such as Nortel and build a new switch, says Simon Yee, an IBM product manager. The 2029 will sit between two networked sites and run highvolume traffic between Big Iron boxes or other servers. The box supports Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet and ATM data transports at OC-3 to OC-12 speeds. The box can be managed by any SNMP management platform, IBM says.

Not only does the 2029 have 64 available channels, but it also can consolidate those channels onto as few as four fibre strands, saving users hundreds of thousands of dollars per month in fibre costs.

The 2029 has been optimised to run IBM mainframe I/O protocols, such as Fibre Connection (FICON) and Enterprise Systems Connection (ESCON). FICON handles Fibre Channel traffic to high-volume storage devices, and ESCON is IBM's 17M byte/sec optical channel connection.

The 2029 Fibre Saver also supports the protocol for the Sysplex Timer, a device that synchronises the data transfer between two clustered mainframes. In addition, the 2029 can attach mainframes up to 31 miles apart and run data at up to 1.2G bit/sec full duplex.

The device will ship in February. Pricing has not been disclosed.

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