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Notes from IBM Information Infrastructure Analyst Summit

An IBM executive panel discusses the changing IT market at an analyst summit Tuesday.

IBM held a meeting Tuesday at Boston’s Four Seasons Hotel for press and analysts to discuss its new strategy for offering users integrated “stacks” of servers, software, storage and services. The two main products introduced were the new IBM Smart Business Storage Cloud bundle, and Information Archive appliance.

But there were some other tidbits to be gleaned from the announcements and meeting as well:

  • VP Barry Rudolph said IBM is “about ready to announce and deliver” solid-state drives (SSD) in its SAN Volume Controller, which Rudolph said will double the performance of the storage virtualization device. IBM previewed the product as Project Quicksilver with Fusion-io last year. Execs wouldn’t give a more specific time frame than “imminent.”
  • Scale-out File Services (SOFS) in its first iteration required an ongoing services engagement (as it did when reference customer Kantana Animation first installed it last year). The new Storage Cloud based on SOFS has the option of deployment services only, as well as an ongoing managed service, but IBM also added some consulting services to go along with the new product package, including Strategy and Change Services for Cloud Adoption for end users, Strategy and Change Services for Cloud Providers, and Testing Services for Cloud (helping build a business case for cloud-based test environments).
  • Smart Business Storage Cloud is being offered for private cloud deployments right now, but IBM also plans to offer a public cloud based on the package and the CloudBurst product it announced in June, which also features automated provisioning and file-set-level chargeback through Tivoli Services Automation Manager (TSAM).

Analyst reviews of the event were mixed. Wikibon analyst Dave Vellante said he thinks IBM has some work to do on the Information Archive. “I loved the line about ‘The keep everything forever model has failed’ – it’s true,” he wrote to Storage Soup in an email. “Unfortunately, what IBM announced yesterday (IBM Information Archive) is more of the same old same old. New hardware, some decent integration but NO INDEXING AND NO SEARCH. In my mind that is not very useful to customers. Supposedly search and indexing ‘is coming soon’ but I think IBM was rushing to replace the DR550 line.”

He added, “good news for IBM is all the archiving vendors are missing the mark. Systems still don’t scale, nobody does classification right and there’s no good way to defensibly delete un-needed data.”

Evaluator Group analyst John Webster said that after following IBM storage for years, he sees them rationalizing different product lines more effectively these days. “Last year at this time things were more disjointed,” he said. “Now they’re able to rationalize XIV with the DS8000, for example.”

When it comes to the single vertically-integrated stack concept, analysts say they’ve seen this movie before. “I wonder, to what degree is server virtualization and VMware driving the desire to integrate everything into a box?” Webster said. “It reminds me of a concept people used to talk about years ago called a ‘God box,’ basically a big switch that did everything. But nobody wanted to go there–it was enough to talk about an intelligent switch. I’m not sure it’s progressed much farther, but I don’t know that it matters–Cisco has thrown down the gauntlet and other large players have to cover their bets.”

Everything’s cyclical, pointed out Analytico Tom Trainer. “Consolidation and innovation patterns in the market are like a sine wave,” Trainer said. “We were probably at the height of new companies and innovation in the dotcom era of 1999 to 2000, and as politics and economics come into play, the pendulum looks like it’s swinging back toward consolidation.”

However, consolidation can open up space in the market for new companies to emerge. “I’m talking to startups receiving good funding recently,” Trainer said. New storage startups have begun coming out of stealth in the last week, such as Avere.

When asked about industry consolidation, IBM’s Rudolph saw a similar picture. “I think you’re starting to see major shifts in our competitive framework, but I don’t think there’ll be a lack of new innovation and three or four huge corporations and that’s it,” he said.

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