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Chances are good that any high-end enterprise SAN today includes some mainframe connectivity. And, according to Corigin Ltd., a 10-year-old company with an eye on the enterprise SAN segment, that's both a problem and an opportunity.

Companies that use their SANs to retrieve data from open systems as well as mainframes, Corigin says, continue to struggle with the disparities in the two computing environments. File structures are different; access paths in and out of the SAN are different; and one, the mainframe, is a lot more expensive to use.

Consider a company taking orders all day through its Unix-based corporate database. At various points, the input data must be added to the corporate invoice system, which is on the mainframe. Even with a SAN in place, it's often necessary to go back to the mainframe to read or write data for the update. That takes time -- and it consumes MIPS (millions of instructions per second), the measure associated with running the expensive processor at the heart of an MVS-based mainframe.

According to Gartner/Dataquest, MIPS represents anywhere from $11,000 to $12,000 in costly mainframe resources annually. Since most applications consume about 40 MIPS per year, it's clear mainframe space is like your grandmother's living room -- nice to look at, but not a place to hang out for very long.

Enter Corigin, founded in 1995 as NewFrame in Israel, but now headquartered in Princeton, N.J. Its product, the Mainframe Data Sharing suite, runs on Unix or NT servers positioned between the mainframe controller and the SAN system or appliance. It extracts mainframe data and delivers copies of it to the SAN, in an ANSI SQL-92 format. Users linked to the SAN can retrieve the information without tapping into the mainframe, or fiddling around with conversions on their open systems.

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