BLOG: Dell EMC Storage Solutions for Mainframe Environments

June 11th, 2021 BLOG: Dell EMC Storage Solutions for Mainframe Environments
Bryan Samson
Strategic Alliances Manager


Got a mainframe? Think Mainline!


Have you ever needed service on an imported car? It requires a specialist mechanic that works on those particular vehicles. Fundamentally, it operates the same as any internal combustion vehicle, but there are enough subtle engineering differences, that a specialist is advised. The same holds true when it comes to mainframe storage. The storage that attaches to a mainframe requires special knowledge. Not only of the storage device (almost any solution provider knows that), but also how a mainframe writes count-key data (CKD) and how to spread the data across the subsystem to maximize performance and minimize latency. Also, the right solution provider will have knowledge of the compatibility with key Z technologies, such as High Performance FICON and z Systems Data Protector (zDP). For 30+ years, since our inception, Mainline has been architecting and delivering storage solutions for mainframe environments.

Launched over 5 decades ago, the mainframe is still the workhorse of mission critical, enterprise computing for businesses worldwide. 44 of the top 50 banks, the 10 largest insurers, large retailers, government agencies, airlines, healthcare institutions and more have the mainframe at the center of their IT infrastructure. Critical to the security, reliability, performance, and resilience is the storage platform for that mainframe environment as well as the management and support resources that maintain the health of the environment.

Although today’s marketplace has a wide variety of storage solutions available to choose for the open systems IT infrastructure environment, the choices available for Z environments are fewer.

Unlike the open systems environment, the storage for the Z:

1) Connects via FICON Protocol, based on Fibre Channel, a high-speed networking technology
2) Data format is CKD in mainframe vs fixed block architecture (FBA or Block) in open systems
3) Needs to provide scalable high performance with extremely low latency

FICON-connected, high performance storage products are available from Dell’s impressive lineup of enterprise storage solutions.


Dell Technologies Mainframe Storage Offerings


Dell Technologies has a 30-year history of innovation in mainframe storage solutions. Dell EMC’s Disk Library for mainframe (DLm) was the first to market in 2008 with a single-vendor 100% disk-based solution. DLm can provide HSM Migration ML1 and ML2 tapeless storage for faster recalls and less data churn. It can also provide long term data retention with backend hybrid cloud access to AWS S3 for even more flexibility in storage options. Mainframe Backup and Recovery can also be stored on a Dell EMC DLm taking advantage of data deduplication with successive incremental backups. Lastly, the DLm can also provide Work Tape storage, which provides unlimited cache for batch processing, sort work, and basically everything else that needs scratch space.

The Dell EMC PowerMax 8000 and VMAX 950F both offer FICON connectivity for mainframe environments. They are both built on the Intel Broadwell processor and the Virtual Matrix (VMax) interconnect, based on 56Gb/s Infiniband. Performance (scale-out) and the capacity of storage (scale-up) can grow independently for both the PowerMax and the VMAX. Where they differ is in the use of backend flash drive technology and protocols.

  • PowerMax is the newer product family building on the impressive architecture of VMAX. The modern backend uses Intel Optane Storage Class Memory (SCM) and Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) for customer data. This provides customers with the lowest latency for backend intensive workloads common in high transactional mainframe workloads.
  • The VMAX 950F is the simpler All Flash Array providing the lowest total cost of ownership available with the same scale-up and scale-out building block architecture.


Selecting the Right Storage Solution for Your Mainframe


Mainline is committed to helping customers make the right solution choices, especially when it comes to mainframe and storage. With 35 dedicated technical specialists across the U.S., we help with mainframe modernization, performance planning, software, connectivity, storage, managed services, and even staff augmentation. As spoken by Jim Stone, Assistant Vice President of Data Center Operations, Security Service Federal Credit Union,

“Mainline was definitely the right choice, and we are very pleased with them. They had a great team – the storage experts, plus a great account executive – that always kept us informed and gave us useful feedback.”


More Information


Mainline has been in the mainframe business since our inception in 1989. Working closely with Dell Technologies to deliver storage solutions to our mainframe customers, we were named Dell Technologies 2020 Growth Partner of the Year and we continue to build on that momentum into 2021 as a Dell Titanium Partner.

For more information on how we can help you with your mainframe storage needs, or any Dell Technologies need, contact your Mainline Account Representative directly, or reach out to us here with any questions. .

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