On 29 November 2011 IBM announced support for FICON on the Brocade DCX 8510 family of 16 Gbps fibre channel directors (IBM SAN 768B-2 and SAN 384B-2). IBM announced general availability (GA) for 2 December 2011. The detailed IBM announcement can be found here. I realize you may be thinking, "now hold on a few milliseconds, 16Gbps FICON? But my DASD arrays only have 8Gbps host adapters, and my new IBM zEnterprise 196 (z196) has the latest and greatest FICON Express8s channels, but those are 8Gbps. Why does this matter to me?"
This announcement is important for several reasons.
First of all, if you are a Brocade FICON customer, this announcement should demonstrate to you our continuing (20+years and counting) commitment to the mainframe and to being technology innovators in the mainframe connectivity space. We do not rest on our laurels. We are proud of our history of delivering innovative technology for mainframe connectivity, and delivering that technology to our customers years ahead of our competitors.
Secondly, having a storage networking infrastructure that offers better performance than the connectivty at the channel or storage device host adapters is a good thing. Those of you who have a cascaded FICON architecture are well aware that the largest potential performance bottleneck is the interswitch links (ISLs) between FICON directors. The 16 Gbps technology in the DCX 8510 allows you to either a) consolidate the number of ISLs you would use compared to using 8Gbps ISLs b) not consolidate and have lower utilization on the ISLs compared to using 8 Gbps ISLs or c) configure a happy medium between a) and b). No matter which path you take (pun intended), the non-blocking and non-oversubscribed architecture of the 16Gbps DCX 8510 helps make certain that the storage network is not going to be a performance bottleneck in a cascaded FICON architecture.
Third, is z High Performance FICON, or zHPF. Originally introduced by IBM in October 2008, zHPF continues to be enhanced by IBM in parallel with enhancements made to the FICON channels themselves. In July 2011, IBM introduced the FICON Express8s channels. The FICON Express8s channels are the first FICON channels with hardware specifically designed to support zHPF. This is in the form of a hardware data router. Prior to the FICON Express8s channels, zHPF implementation was done at the channel firmware level. When used together, FICON Express8s channels and zHPF offer significant performance gains, including being able to run the channel at full line rate. For details please read IBM's latest FICON Express8s performance white paper. The DCX 8510 is the ideal FICON director for use with zHPF and your zEnterprise 196 or zEnterprise 114.
Finally, having a FICON fabric that offers the raw high performace the DCX 8510 brings to the data center will allow Brocade FICON customers to take full advantage of some of the other fabric innovations currently being worked on. These innovations will be much more than simply ratcheting up the speed and bandwidth. These will be about making performance management much more proactive. Rather than reacting to a problem after it has happened, would it not be better if the fabric anticipated a potential performance issue before it occurred so you could remedy the situation before it made an adverse impact? Would it not be nice to be able to manage quality of service (QoS) from end to end, and for FICON environments, have the QoS capabilities of the FICON directors be interfaced/managed with WLM? Those are just a couple of examples.
Innovation, flexibility, and performance. To paraphrase and use a clean version of a quote from US Vice President Joe Biden: The 16 Gbps FICON DCX 8510 is a big deal.