zHyperLinks™ and the jump to Hyper Space


As the world geeks out on the latest blockbuster, Rogue One a Star Wars story, it is safe to say that everyone is a Star Wars fan… In this blog we will cover the latest developments in IBM Enterprise storage development, but with a Star Wars flavor.

Punch it Chewie…

With the advent of mobile computing, 24x7x365 banking and other business demands, the pressures to drive transaction processing are greater than ever. With the DS8880 Storage System, IBM is making it easy to accelerate transaction processing for the mainframe.  In Star Wars terms, the need for the jump to light speed is a daily occurrence.

The Need for the Jump to Light Speed

The growth in Cloud, Analytics, Mobile and Social workloads drives additional requirements on IBM Storage and z Systems to be able to execute transactions with the same service level agreements (SLA) and enterprise class qualities of service that the most demanding of z Systems clients have come to expect. For example, adding new data sources from the cloud for a work flow may increase elapsed transaction times. Financial applications are choosing to include additional information and calculations beside the functions that user’s request.  This additional information could lead to additional revenue opportunities.  For example, a client examining their checking account balance may see how they can save money by refinancing their mortgage, and so on.

Mobile access to data on z Systems may add unpredictable increases to transaction volume with possible impact to SLAs.  It is important that middleware such as DB2 can scale to meet these demands. Lowering database transactional latency is critical to accommodate the use of new data sources and an increase in transaction volumes while enabling traditional and new mobile workloads to meet their service level agreements.

How the Hyper Drive Works 

For the Star Wars explanation of how a Hyper Drive works look here  but for more information Hyperlink check out the  Statement of Direction for zHyperLink™, the first new mainframe I/O Channel link technology since the launch of FICON®.  zHyperLink is a new short distance mainframe attach link designed for up to 10x lower latency than High Performance FICON™ (zHPF™).  This technology can be installed on existing IBM DS8880 Storage Systems® and the hardware capability is already included in the DS8880 R8.2 Storage Systems delivered in December of 2016 (model numbers 984, 985, 986 and 988).


Figure 3: zHyperLink Technology – Heritage FICON or zHPF I/O has typically required 300 usec as seen by DB2 for a simple I/O operation.  The coupling facility for z Systems typically can read or write 4K of data in in under 8 usec.  zHyperLink technology will provide a new short distance link from the mainframe to storage to read and write data up to 10x faster than FICON or zHPF.

The DS8880 R8.2 (models 984, 985, 986 and 988) available in 4Q2016, contains the hardware intended to support this technology.  IBM also intends that DS8880 models that shipped prior to December 2016 will be concurrently field upgradeable for zHyperLinks.

The zHyperLink is a point-to-point optical connection between the mainframe and storage.  The link length is limited to 150 meters, the same distance supported by z Systems short distance coupling technology. (obviously a little shorter than the parsec referenced in the speed claims of the Millennium Falcon for more on parsecs look here)

Client Value

The client benefits of IBM zHyperLink™ technology include the following:

  • Accelerating transaction processing on the mainframe
  • Reducing batch elapsed times by providing faster index splits for DB2™ for z/OS.  Index split performance is the main bottleneck for high volume INSERTs, resulting in faster Batch Processing
  • Avoiding additional application development cost often required to meet scalability requirements
  • Avoiding additional hardware cost and data sharing instances to meet scalability requirements
  • Benefit from industry leading I/O latency with an easy to deploy and manage I/O technology
  • Enhancing system resilience through better handling of unpredictable workload spikes and hardware failures


Figure 4: Projected IBM zHyperLink Performance – I/O response times as seen by middleware such as DB2 are reduced by up to 10x.


Figure 5:  Projected IBM zHyperLink Performance – DB2 transaction elapsed times can be reduced up to 80 percent.


The IBM DS8880 is designed from the casters up for extensibility, client invest protection and availability.  The IBM zHyperLink™ technology is intended to make z/OS a more attractive platform for deploying new workloads, for growing heritage workloads with improved scalability and facilitate leveraging the reuse of existing storage assets.  Issuing the statement of direction allows clients to plan their machine rooms, disaster recovery strategy and application deployment choices in anticipation of this new technology. Or put another way as Han Solo would say “Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, farm boy.” and it’s IBM driving the innovation…

Editors Note

This blog post was written by Harry Yudenfriend and Peter Sutton.  Harry is an IBM Fellow for IBMS DS8k range of storage and has more patents to his name than some of my children have had hot dinners.  You can follow Harry on Twitter here and I suggest you do for all thing enterprise and mainframe storage.  Peter Sutton is an IBM Distinguished Engineer and leads the core of mainframe development strategy.  Peter is an all round good egg and is only held back in life by sitting opposite me in Poughkeepsie…