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Shoden takes lego approach to de-duped mainframe VTL

SI builds acronym edifice

Better mousetraps selling for less money seem a good idea in straightened times. That's what a South African system integrator has built and is using to expand into the UK. The product is QuickRecover, a de-duplicating mainframe virtual tape library (VTL).

Shoden Data Systems partners with Hitachi Data Systems, Luminex, Data Domain and others to integrate systems. It has never had an overdraft - you can imagine UK bankers shivering with horror at this heresy - and has grown its business with mistress prudence looking over the finance chief's shoulder. It has been able to do what Bus-Tech, EMC, FSC, IBM and Sun have not, which is to build - well, put together - a product that writes mainframe backup data to disk in de-duplicated form.

It has done it using the traditional SI lego building blocks - other supplier's products - instead of writing the VTL code from scratch and building its own hardware. The SI route is a lot less expensive than doing in-house development from the ground up.

The other firms produce mainframe VTLs but not de-duplicating ones, which strip out repetitive patterns at block level and so greatly reduce the amount of data actually written to disk. Mainframe users then get the fast backup and restore from disk that is the traditional VTL benefit and the prospect of capping tape library growth, expensive tape library growth. The pitch is, in fact, to start replacing mainframe physical tape libraries with de-duped disk libraries - empty that Powderhorn so to speak - taking up much less data centre budget and floor space.

Shoden uses one or more Luminex VTL engines to receive mainframe backup data heading for an IBM tape library over ESCON or FICON links, and turn it it into a data stream headed for disk. The Luminex box is x86 hardware running Solaris and a channel gateway function. The output data stream then goes to a Data Domain gateway VTL which de-dupes and writes it out to Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) storage arrays, either AMS modular ones or an enterprise USP, which a customer may already have. Data Domain's replication function is used to send de-duped data off site.

Shoden contributes its own management GUI running on another X86/Solaris box which is located in the Luminex layer and manages everything.

Shoden's Mark Slade, sales and business development director, says Shoden is setting up Shoden Data Systems UK to take QuickRecover and knock on the doors of up to 150 potential UK customers with the message about capping mainframe tape library expenses and recovering datacentre floorspace taken up by tape libraries. He cites a South African bank which has foresworn tape use because it was facing a costly upgrade to terabyte-class tape drives as existing kit came to the end of its life, and says lots of mainframe users are facing the same situation.

The UK operation is run by John Taffinder, ex-HDS, who used to run 3PAR's European business. Phil Jones, also ex-HDS, is the chief technical officer and knows the mainframe business. Support will come from a Shoden call centre in South Africa and, no doubt, local tech support staff.

Shoden is hoping that it can sell its QuickRecover integrated product before the other suppliers get de-dupe functionality into their mainframe VTLs. The product has been shipping in South Africa for two years and its price is said to be more than competitive with the other mainframe VTLs. Credibility is going to be the thing. Supply and ultimate support from South Africa with its political situation may be a sticking point. ®

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