Kill three Cloud Scenario Birds with a single StorSafe Stone

Kill three Cloud Scenario Birds with a single StorSafe Stone

June 1, 2022

Larry Bolhuis

This is a rare event where you can kill two birds with one stone. But thanks to a new partnership between IBM and FalconStor Software, you might just be able to knock three of them out with one stone. And it’s an opportunity I know well, having worked with the FalconStor and IBM teams to make it happen.

Last month, IBM and FalconStor announced a strategic partnership to make the IBM i platform a better player in the hybrid cloud world which I believe will increasingly be a reality for IBM i users who rely on the platform to support their critical applications.

The partnership enables FalconStor’s StorSafe Virtual Tape Library software to be the bridge between on-premises data centers and server instances running IBM’s Power Systems Virtual Server Cloud, better known as PowerVS Cloud. The collaboration also sets the stage for managed service providers to use StorSafe to connect their clouds to the IBM PowerVS cloud and shows that MSPs could also do like Big Blue and create their own backup service offerings for IBM i using the technology. from FalconStor.

We sought to use the joint development work of IBM and FalconStor to serve three different use cases:

  • Native cloud backup: Companies running part of their environment on IBM Power VS Cloud, perhaps test and development or a group of applications, can now use FalconStor VTL technology to safely and efficiently back up IBM i data to IBM Cloud Object Storage.
  • Migration to the cloud: Companies looking to migrate part of the IBM i application farm or the entire enchilada to PowerVS, we use FalconStor’s VTL software to take a secure snapshot, replicate it and restore it to the cloud. Doing it this way ensures that there is always a backup copy at hand and eliminates any need for downtime in the process.
  • Hybrid cloud backup: Enterprises and managed service providers are increasingly looking to use the cloud for a secure and isolated offsite location. So we use FalconStor on-premises and replicate a deduplicated and encrypted copy to the PowerVS Cloud.

I worked with IBM and FalconStor on this three-part approach because I know the IBM i community well. You’ll all want to configure your workloads the way you want – on-premises, in the cloud, or a combination of both. And you’ll want to test that, maybe for a test and dev workload, maybe for that app that’s still running version 4 and needs to be moved. Or maybe just to serve as a secondary data center so you can shut down that expensive Colo facility.

One of the most important aspects I see in using StorSafe for migrating data to the cloud is that it is able to minimize the impact on production workloads because moving data is performed during main system backups. This means that migrating data from the existing system to the new system can be done over a long period of time without disrupting production applications or putting the machine down during the backup. And most importantly, the final move from old to new machine – and I say machine when it could actually be logical partitions in our vocabulary – can be short because StorSafe performs data deduplication and compression.

It’s a lot less hassle than having to use a physical migration server — a box of disks sent by FedEx or trucked to the cloud data center — or escalating the data to the cloud over an internet connection. In the latter case, it could take what seems like forever (and from a business perspective, it might as well be) to get a synchronized copy in any cloud.

Now that StorSafe is available in the PowerVS Cloud, users can back up to the IBM Cloud or use the power of a virtual tape library to migrate applications to the cloud. But it’s not a one-way scenario, a Roach Motel so to speak where apps and their data are moved to the PowerVS cloud and can’t get out. Once the PowerVS instance is the primary instance, the on-premises data center can function as its backup site, just like another cloud, or the StorSafe Bridge can be used to bring applications out of the PowerVS cloud and back to the on-premises data center if desirable.

As is the case with many IT vendor announcements, building this bridge between on-premises data centers running IBM i applications on Power Systems and IBM-created PowerVS Cloud instances is much more difficult than simply loading software on IBM Cloud and get a beer.

One of the weird things is that the PowerVS cloud uses the iSCSI protocol for storage devices, but products like StorSafe use the Fiber Channel protocol. Why? That’s a very good question. And it’s not worth trying to figure out what IBM was thinking because we needed that time to figure out how to fix that particular integration problem.

Ultimately, the process of enabling iSCSI on IBM i and creating a network-based installation to move your particular IBM i configuration from one machine to the PowerVS instance is quite complicated and there is gaps in documentation that make it even more error-prone than normal things where system administrators mess with things deep in the bowels of an operating system.

That’s why we’ve automated scripts that make it seamless to configure iSCSI for StorSafe to run on PowerVS Cloud. With this we have one pillar of the bridge anchored to PowerVS using iSCSI and the other pillar is your own IBM i enclosure using Fiber Channel. To our knowledge, all other cloud providers use Fiber Channel storage drivers, which makes things easier. Rumor has it that IBM wanted to use iSCSI for PowerVS because it didn’t want to drop Fiber Channel hardware into the PowerVS cloud.

The funny thing is that iSCSI, which has been around for years, is still not really native on IBM i – not even on the brand new IBM i 7.5. Although there is an option in the licensed internal code under IBM i to restore from iSCSI, it is not yet functional and IBM does not know when it will be. So you have these options:

  • You can browse PDF files and do a lot of work to make iSCSI available.
  • You can check out the 165-page Redbook on setting up a PowerVS instance.
  • You can use what I built with FalconStor which automated this error prone process with scripts and have it start StorSafe so you can replicate your main IBM i OS to PowerVS which is the first thing you need to do when you want to move apps to a cloud. You perform on-premises virtual tape backup and PowerVS cloud restore, and you’re up and running.

What IBM i stores need to remember is that the cloud is not an “all or nothing” scenario. In the past, virtualization and container technologies were first deployed to support application development and test environments, and for many IBM i shops, this is the best place to start and acquire experience with tools to migrate applications, data and clouds. who support them. We also believe that IBM i stores will turn to the cloud to perform secure backups of data on their production systems. Either way, they will need a bridge between systems, and StorSafe can be that bridge and can now be deployed relatively easily. Let us know how we can help you.

Larry Bolhuis is president of Frankeni Technology Consulting and Co-Chairman of IBM i Managed Services Provider iInTheCloud.

This content is sponsored by FalconStor Software.


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