Luminex upgrades mainframe gateways

By Ann Silverthorn

—This week, Luminex unveiled two new channel gateways, which enable connectivity from mainframe systems to open-systems storage products.

The Channel Gateway 3000 family features concurrent ESCON and FICON support. The Channel Gateway 3400 allows Fibre Channel tape drives and encryption appliances to attach to mainframes as native mainframe devices, and the Channel Gateway 3200 enables mainframe tape data to be transparently encrypted and distributed on CDs or DVDs to non-mainframe environments.

The Channel Gateway 3400 is an upgrade from the Luminex 2000E direct-to-tape product. The 3400, like the 2000E, offers encryption without the use of CPU cycles. The 3400 adds support for IBM 3494 tape libraries in addition to most brands of open-system tape libraries. It also supports most tape-encryption appliances and the Fibre Channel tape drives in Sun/StorageTek tape libraries.

The Channel Gateway 3200 allows companies to distribute confidential client data to their own customers that do not have mainframes, or whose statements would require reams of paper because of their size. The 3200 also has a media-tracking system that places bar codes on the CDs or DVDs, creates waybills, and contacts the courier for shipping.

The channel gateways respond to the mainframe's proprietary protocol for connecting tape or disk devices. IBM and Sun/StorageTek are the primary vendors that sell tape systems for mainframe customers, and IBM, EMC, and Hitachi Data Systems are the only vendors that sell disk storage to mainframe users, according to Art Tolsma, CEO of Luminex.

"Much of the research and development put into the storage and networking industries is not available for mainframe customers," says Tolsma. "IBM sells LTO, but those drives aren't available for mainframe customers. They have to buy a high-end $30,000 tape drive."

Luminex developed its own proprietary HBA for ESCON, but chose to partner with Emulex for its FICON connectivity.

"We partnered with Emulex because it's the same platform that IBM and others use for FICON," says Tolsma. "Also, we can come out of the gate with 4Gbps, PCI-X, PCI Express, and ROHS compliance."

Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst with StorageIO, an IT infrastructure technology analyst firm, sees Luminex as the "glue" between technologies, allowing companies to leverage open technology with traditional mainframe proprietary interfaces and protocols.

"Luminex deals with very mature, but complex protocols and interfaces," says Schulz. "Interoperability in the mainframe world is in some ways easier than open systems because there aren't as many devices to deal with, but they're more in-depth. Luminex leverages knowledge and technology that it had internally as well as through acquisitions."

Schulz doesn't think many new vendors will enter this space because the cost is too high. However, he sees it as a market of acquisitions. For example, Luminex acquired Polaris in 2003 and DataWare in 2000. McData is also a player in this space and acquired CNT, which acquired Inrange, while Inrange had acquired Computerm. Bus-Tech also offers mainframe connectivity products.

Schulz says that Luminex's hardware-based encryption is an alternative to software-based encryption, which can slow mainframe performance.

In related news, CA recently introduced a new mainframe encryption solution that is designed to streamline management of the tape-encryption process for z/OS application data. For increased performance, BrightStor Tape Encryption uses IBM's Integrated Cryptographic Service Facility (ICSF) and cryptography hardware features, which are incorporated on z/Series servers.

Pricing for the Luminex channel gateways is roughly $25,000 per channel. An end user will probably end up with a six-figure invoice when they implement the products, but Tolsma says that's usually 50% cheaper than traditional mainframe storage options.

This article was originally published on June 08, 2006