IBM also laid out a new strategy at the meeting of industry analysts and press for packaging stacks of products according to applications and use cases to make them easier to install and manage, instead of "delivering just a big bag of Tinkertoys," said Barry Rudolph, vice president, IBM System Storage.
IBM Smart Business Storage Cloud
The Smart Business Storage Cloud is based on IBM's Scale-out File Services (SOFS) and is a variation on the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance package IBM launched in June. Customers can run SOFS on either IBM System x or BladeCenter servers. SOFS is a management "wrapper" around IBM's General Parallel File System (GPFS). On its own, GPFS is intended for specialized high-performance computing (HPC) environments and is administered using a command-line interface (CLI), according to Tom Clark, an IBM distinguished engineer. SOFS adds reporting and a Web-based user interface. SOFS has been offered before as an IBM Global Technology Services (GTS) engagement, but the Smart Business Storage Cloud is a pre-configured package sent whole from the factory and deployed with services as an option.
Beneath the SOFS scale-out network-attached (NAS) cluster, customers have a choice of any of IBM's enterprise data storage systems, including the XIV Storage System, as well as the System Storage DS3000, DS4000, DS5000, DS8000 and DCS9900. They can also choose to integrate Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM), Tivoli Storage Manager Hierarchical Storage Manager (HSM) for tiered storage data migration, and LTO-based tape libraries for backup. Tivoli Service Automation Manager (TSAM), which automates provisioning among the components of the Smart Business Storage Cloud, is another option. TSAM is included standard with the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance and is one of the chief differences between the two products.
While competitors are rolling out object-based storage systems with management based on API integration between applications and storage repositories, Clark said IBM is sticking with standard network file protocols, including NFS, CIFS (through Samba), HTTP and FTP.
IBM will also bring out another version of the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance as a public archiving option that includes customer self-service interfaces and chargeback options, but officials declined to give a timeframe for that release.
IBM Information Archive
The Information Archive appliance isn't positioned as cloud storage, but fits in with the strategy of integrating products and removing variables. Information Archive is an SOFS cluster running on IBM System x for file archiving. The SOFS cluster presents a global namespace that abstracts the actual location of files in the underlying disk repository and optional attached tape library, calling them back when requested through the Information Archive element manager interface.
Customers can partition the archive appliance into three "collections" using either NAS or TSM API access. On the NAS side, they can chose from three levels of retention policy around changing retention periods and deleting files.
Underneath the covers, the box contains IBM DS4000 Fibre Channel disk arrays. IBM Tivoli Storage Manager HSM handles the movement of data among storage tiers on the back end; content management applications from IBM or third-party vendors would handle the ingestion of data into the archive. Each collection would have its own DS4000 disk array, though the hardware is abstracted from the user. Also abstracted from the user is a GPFS cache that pulls files from the SOFS interface and feeds them to IBM Tivoli Storage Manager HSM, as well as the stub files left behind on the GPFS repository by IBM Tivoli Storage Manager HSM when files are moved.
The Information Archive won't begin shipping until the first quarter of 2010. Later iterations of the appliance will come pre-integrated with its content management applications for specific use cases.
Industry consolidation and a fascination with 'stacks'
IBM's strategy is part of an IT industry trend in which big vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc., Dell Inc. and Oracle Corp. are acquiring companies with the goal of becoming a one-stop shop for data center hardware, software and services. Dell acquired Perot Systems for $3.9 billion in September, matching HP's 2008 acquisition of services company EDS to compete with IBM's Global Services.
Cisco launched its own blade servers preconfigured with a 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) data center network, called the Unified Computing System (UCS). Oracle, which is in the process of acquiring Sun Microsystems Inc., launched a new preconfigured server, network and storage system called Exadata 2.
Analysts at the IBM session were split in their assessment of whether this change matches what's happening in customer environments. Noemi Greyzdorf, research manager, storage software at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, questioned IBM executives Tuesday about how they intended to match their new cross-domain bundles with the way she said users' IT organizations tend to function, with separate teams and purchasing processes for each IT discipline. "How is IBM going to align its go-to-market [strategy] and sales to enable end users to deploy one infrastructure across the organization?" Greyzdorf said.
However, Andrew Reichman a senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., and others said they saw a shift occurring in IT organizations' thinking about infrastructure.
"In the x86 server era, there's very little differentiation between hardware products, and more concern about cost and how applications are going to work," Reichman said. "It's not necessarily for everybody. There are definitely tinkerers out there. But the open source, roll-your-own approach accounts for a very small proportion of users."
IBM executives insist there's been a shift among customers toward a focus on application workloads and services rather than specific technologies or products, in part due to the need to cut costs during an economic downturn. "You hear discussions about policy a lot more—managers are saying 'Take away my millions of choices so I'm not down at the bit and byte level,'" said Chris O'Connor, vice president of strategy, IBM Tivoli.