FlashCopy: Pros and Cons

June 27, 2016

To the uninitiated, IBM System Storage FlashCopy seems like magic. Since it creates full, point-in-time copies of data that are then available for immediate read and write access, technicians can quickly move these assets to different partitions. Accordingly, a FlashCopy of production data can shore up disaster recovery initiatives, improve production backup systems, and help in the implementation of new test environments.

In large, 24/7 IT environments, FlashCopy enables data to be used with a variety of applications, supporting many initiatives such as software development, business integration, and data analysis. Moreover, it’s a key part of any Power Systems environment. With that mind, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of FlashCopy.

More Efficient Backup, Disaster Recovery, and Development

FlashCopy is capable of quickly establishing relationships between hundreds of volumes, writing a copy of the source volume’s contents to a target volume by mapping each one. After the connection is set up, users can perform read and write I/Os on both the source and the target.

They can also take advantage of FlashCopy features, such as addressing multiple targets with a single source or reversing the source/target relationship. Similarly, a connection to Metro Mirror can be used to create local point-in-time copies and then copy them to remote sites. With FlashCopy SE, it is possible to create space efficient DS8000 target volumes, on which physical capacity is not taken up until the data is actually written, enabling thin provisioning of targets.

With the ability to create a variety of flexible pairs and relationships, FlashCopy is suitable for many operational environments, including:

  • Testing and integration setups. Developers can have rapid access to production data by using a FlashCopy, against which new applications can also be tested.
  • Data backup infrastructure. FlashCopy enables backup of production data with minimal application outage time.
  • Data analysis systems. Using a FlashCopy of the production data removes the need to maintain persistent data mining tasks.

The FlashCopy SAN Requirement

What’s the catch with FlashCopy? It requires a storage area network, which may not be the right fit for some organizations. Companies that only have a handful of applications or limited budgets may not need the power of a SAN to support disaster recovery and could instead opt for software-based solutions. For shops with 24/7 service requirements and a larger portfolio of applications, a SAN supporting FlashCopy enables rapid capture and utilization of production data for many ends.

Overall, while there are some “gotchas” when it comes to FlashCopy, like the storage area network requirement, these few disadvantages are outweighed by the versatility of FlashCopy for data replication and utilization.

An Introduction to FlashCopy

You could be missing objects using Save While Active. IBM i expert Chuck Stupca explains how FlashCopy works and can be combined with SAN to provide nearly instantaneous backups and create quick test environments in this 1-hour on-demand webinar.


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