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IBM seeds the clouds with XIV, Storwize, SONAS

Like other large storage vendors, IBM gets criticized for having too many storage platforms and for not making it clear which products are best for certain markets. But IBM is looking to clarify the position of several of its systems by combining them as part of its cloud storage strategy.

Todd Neville, product development lead for IBM Cloud Storage, told StorageSoup that its XIV and Scale-out Network Attached Storage (SONAS) systems are key pieces of Big Blue’s cloud strategy both separately and in combination. He said Storwize data reduction software will also play a role in the cloud when IBM integrates it with its hardware.

“Going forward, you will see various aspects of the IBM portfolio coming together and it will be obvious as to how they complement each other,” he said.

Neville said there are four key components of IBM’s cloud storage strategy. Two of them are services — Smart Business Cloud Storage (SBCS) and Storage Cloud Services (SCS). IBM also launched SONAS based on its General Parallel File System (GPFS) with the cloud in mind, Neville said. He referred to SBCS as a managed SONAS.

Then there is XIV. It’s been almost three years since IBM bought XIV, and Big Blue hasn’t done a good job convincing people where the product fits in its enterprise storage strategy. Neville said XIV’s main role is as a cloud product.

“People are confused, they say ‘How does that position with these other [cloud] things?’” he said. “Well, it’s really complementary. The cool things in XIV are the nuts and bolts in the storage itself – the RAID, the provisioning, and the way you’re laying out and retrieving data from disk drives. Now look at the really cool intellectual property on SONAS, a lot of it’s the presentation of data to the end user – the namespace, file system, clustered CIFS, clustered NFS. These two are very complementary. They’re not walking on top of each other at all. They’re also both very scalable. Today we ship SONAS two ways – as native SONAS or we can put an XIV behind SONAS as the storage device.”

Neville said the two platforms will integrate more. He also said IBM has no plans to discontinue or halt development of XIV now that XIV founder – and EMC Symmetrix creator – Moshe Yanai has left IBM.

“We are absolutely committed to XIV,” he said.

IBM also looks to SONAS to help XIV scale beyond its single-box 79 TB usable capacity limit, Neville said.

“Any product has limit on the individual box,” he said. “You have the ability to put multiple XIV boxes under a single SONAS. The native SONAS software scales to something like 14 TB. And we have the GPFS layer on top of it. We have implementations in the field that are in the multiple PBs. There’s no reason an XIV-SONAS combination couldn’t be very large. We can do it today with multiple XIVs under the SONAS.”

“I can’t comment on what we’re going to do to the XIV hardware to make it more scalable, that’s a whole other discussion.”

Neville said Storwize will also play in IBM’s cloud picture, although that wasn’t the main reason IBM acquired the data reduction vendor.

“Storwize is an interesting asset,” he said. “I’ve been looking at them a lot more since we acquired them. I think they will play a prominent role across a number of different products. There’s potential for them immediately in SONAS, which has a good use case for compression and deduplication and the kind of things the Storwize algorithm can do. I’m talking generically, not just what it can do today. The technology’s good for a lot of things. I see it applied toward these cloud items like toward SONAS, SBSC, SCS, but it is also applicable toward a different type of compression and dedupe level at the block level. I envision it with some of our block products as well.”

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