3390 disks and channel speeds

3390 disk information

Every 3390 disk volume contains 56,664 bytes per track, 15 tracks per cylinder and 849,960 Bytes per Cylinder. The terms 'track' and 'cylinder' come from old pre-raid disks, which were like 8 old fashioned vinyl records stacked in a pile, with a set of vertically fixed read/write heads which moved in and out of them. The disks had recording surfaces on both sides. Of the 16 surfaces, one surface was used for control information which left 15 for data. A 'track' was the amount of data which could be read from a single surface in one revolution, without moving the heads. Think of it as the needle on the vinyl record doing one revolution. A 'cylinder' could be read from all 15 surfaces without moving the heads. This was quite important, as a cylinder could be read quite quickly, without any mechanical movement. The diagram might help explain

old fashioned disks

Modern disks use FBA storage, but they have to emulate 3390 CKD format, so the terms 'track' and 'cylinder' are still used.

3390 disk numbers

Model Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 9 Model 27 Model 54 EAV
Tracks per Volume 16,695 33,390 50,085 150,255 491,400 982,800 up to 3,940,020
Cylinders per Volume 1,113 2,226 3,339 10,017 32,760 65,520 up to 262,668
Bytes per Volume 946 MB 1.89 GB 2.84 GB 8.51 GB 27.84 GB 55.6 GB up to 223 GB

IBM raised the bar on volume sizes with z/OS V1R10. Extended Address Volumes (EAV) can hold between 65521 and 262668 cylinders. The cylinder addressing now becomes CCCCcccH where CCCCH is the old addressing system with an extra three ccc cylinder addresses added. Datasets are defined as EAV-eligible, which means that they can be allocated into the cylinder space above the 65521 mark. This is defined as 'cylinder managed space' while the area up to the 65521 mark is 'track managed space'. By my calculations, that means an EAV volume can hold just over 223 GB.
Cylinder managed EAV-elligible datasets need extra VTOC information, so two new DSCBs are also introduced, the F8 DSCB and the F9 DSCB. The F8 DSCB is the EAV equivalent of an F1 DSCB, while the F9DSCB can contain pointers to F3 DSCBs
FDReport provides canned reports to get data about EAV volumes, see the FDReport page for details.

While a 3390-3 disk can store 2.84 GB, you will not get that amount of data on it. Each disk has to contain a Volume Table of Contents (VTOC), a VTOC index, and a VSAM VOLUME DATASET (VVDS). Typically, these require 270 tracks, 14 tracks and 30 tracks respectively. The disk also has a single track self describing label. That lot uses up 315 tracks, or about 18 MB. Then, data is stored on each track in blocks, with inter block gaps in between. Best case for efficient space use is generally half track blocking, which is 27,998 bytes per block, or 55,996 usable bytes per track. The sum is (50,085-315)*55,996 = 2.787 GB. So that means you can store about 2.79 GB of user data on a 3390-3 disk.

Initialising disks

You define a VTOC and Index when you initialise a volume with ICKDSF. A typical command would look like

 INIT UNIT(D615) VOLID(D3D615) VTOC(1,0,270) -

The VFY statement is a verify to check the old label on the volume, this makes it less likely to initialise the wrong volume. The NO-DS-EXIST parameter means do not re-imitialise the volume if any datasets exist on it, other than the VTOC and VVDS. You installation may have set thos by default, on which case it could be overridden with DSEXIST. You need the volume off-line to all systems before initialising it. Note that the ICKDSF statement does not make the disk a 3390. This happens when the disks are logically configured in the hardware.

Allocating a VVDS

The system will allocate a VVDS for you the first time a VSAM file is allocated on a disk, but the default system VVDS can be too small. You can allocate a VVDS yourself using IDCAMS commands

    (NAME(SYS1.VVDS.Vvolser) -
    VOLUMES(volser) -
    TRACKS(60 15)) -

You need to substitute your own volser, and catalog name. Be aware that a VVDS which is too big can cause performance issues. There are no recommendations for a VVDS size, but it will depend on the number of datasets on a volume, not the volume size. For example, if a 200GB EAV volume contains a few very large databases, then the default value will be fine.

OS/390 channel speeds


16 Gb FICON express (FIbre CONnection) supports up to 16,384 device addresses under a single channel. Bandwidth is 1024 MB/s. Ficon will also handle mixed block size IO much better than ESCON, which tends to favour large blocks. FICON supports multiple IOs per channel and will support 10km or 20km native. Various channel extender options exist, including the CNT Ultranet Storage Director eXtended (now part of McData) that can extend both FICON and ESCON channels to an indefinite distance.


Almost obsolete, ESCON is a fibre based communications method that can run at up to 17 MB/s nominal speed, and can support up to 1024 devices per channel. ESCON will only support one IO per channel. Native ESCON distance is limited to 3km, but it can be extended to 60km using repeaters.

Copper Parallel

Called Bus and Tag, or parallel channels, these were massive blue sheathed copper cables as thick as your arm. They were limited to 400 feet long. There are still a few of them out there. Their speed is a maximum of 4.5 MB/s

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Lascon updTES

I retired 2 years ago, and so I'm out of touch with the latest in the data storage world. The Lascon site has not been updated since July 2021, and probably will not get updated very much again. The site hosting is paid up until early 2023 when it will almost certainly disappear.
Lascon Storage was conceived in 2000, and technology has changed massively over those 22 years. It's been fun, but I guess it's time to call it a day. Thanks to all my readers in that time. I hope you managed to find something useful in there.
All the best