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IBM Optical Storage Replacement:Optical Migration vs. Optical Illusion

Have you ever heard of anyone purchasing a warranty on a 1965 Dodge Dart in the last five years? The warranty period for these cars expired over 30 years ago. Even if you could purchase a warranty, it would likely well exceed the value of the car itself so, unless you had some sort of personal attachment to the car, you'd have to find a new mode of transportation.

Optical storage has similar characteristics. When initially developed, IBM optical products provided the highest density for WORM-based archiving (write once, read many times). Millions if not billions of images have been stored on IBM optical media across thousands of organizations. Over time however, accessing and managing these archive solutions has become quite onerous. By comparison, server space has become so inexpensive, reliable and fast that optical media cannot compare with response time, storage density or backup ease.

Not unlike the 1965 Dodge Dart, IBM will soon stop offering maintenance contracts on their optical libraries, including the 3995, 3996 and 399F. The question now becomes not if, but when and how to migrate away from these platforms and with what to replace this outdated optical library hardware. There are two important aspects to consider when determining your optical replacement and migration strategy.

Months vs. Years

The first characteristic revolves around the total amount of data to be moved, and the timeframe in which to move them. Migrating files off optical drives is a long and slow process, taking up to a year unless you are working with a certified and experienced partner (more on this later).

Optical Destination

The second aspect to consider is where to migrate these images. For this, you have three main options detailed below.


The first option is to migrate to the IBM iSeries platform. However, to some, this is kind of like going from the frying pan to the fire. While users may not experience any issues, a significant burden is added to IT operations. This manifests itself in the backup and disaster recovery process, since tapes must be constantly managed.


A second migration option is to a hardware platform that offers both primary and archival storage, such as InfiniVault from Imation. This solution can provide you with the near-term backup needed for files that may be frequently accessed in the short-term (six months). It also provides you with a long-term archiving solution on very robust media (RDX). So that you can have a true disaster recovery solution, duplicate systems can be purchased and placed at both the primary and secondary location, and their synchronization happens automatically. This option typically costs much less than other hardware archival solutions.

Virtual Optical Library

A third migration option uses a virtual optical solution. This technology applies similar optical drive formatting as the IBM iSeries server. This solution eliminates the need for outdated hardware, but provides similar formatting and retrieval characteristics. The best part is that any applications that have been written to find information based on the previous hardware driven archiving solutions do not need to be re-written to accommodate this platform. Everything works and is compatible.

It's Time

To determine the optimal storage destination for your optically based information, you will want to find a partner that offers two things:

1. Certification as an IBM partner: you want someone who has been trained on the IBM optical platform or you run the risk of a failed implementation

2. Experience: certification is a great start but only a partner that has successfully achieved several optical migrations can help ensure that the process will go smoothly in terms of time and budget--otherwise, migrations can take up to a year or longer

With a sound optical migration strategy and experienced partner, you can ensure that legacy business information will continue to be searchable and accessible over the long-term.

About the Author
Gail Gaumond is the author of this article on Optical Storage.
Find more information, about Document Management here

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