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IBM debuts DS6000 and DS8000

Big Blue takes the wraps off its new high-end storage arrays in New York City but is evasive on price/performance benchmark details.

NEW YORK -- IBM Corp. unveiled two new storage arrays in New York City Tuesday, claiming an industry first in bridging the gap between incompatible high-end and midrange storage systems.

The DS6000 and DS8000 arrays will be available from December 3, 2004, starting at $97,000. IBM expects "volume ramp up" in the first quarter of 2005.

"These products are the first high-end and midrange storage systems from a major vendor that use the same software, tools and interfaces ... and the same copy services between the new systems and the old products -- it's an important distinction," said Tony Asaro, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group. Essentially, it means that users can move data between the DS6000 and DS8000 and the older ESS 750s and 800s, giving them investment protection and simplified management, Asaro said.

These products are the first high-end and midrange storage systems from a major vendor that use the same software, tools and interfaces
Tony Asaro
analystEnterprise Strategy Group

Bob Venable, director of enterprise systems for Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans to install a DS8000 in the company's primary data center and a DS6000 in its secondary data center for remote copy purposes. Blue Cross is a loyal IBM customer with seven of the company's Shark systems up and running today. Venable's chief reason for continuing with IBM's products over competing systems from EMC and Hitachi Data Systems is total cost of ownership. "IBM doesn't charge hundreds of thousands of dollars in software maintenance charges whereas the others do," he said.


IBM spent a lot of time pointing out that the DS6000 is smaller than comparable EMC systems. It starts at 550 GB and scales up to 67 TB and 224 drives in a single rack. "Users get all the performance of the refrigerator-sized system in a product the size of a shoebox," said an IBM spokesman. The DS6000 connects to zSeries, iSeries, Unix, Linux and Intel servers and shares about 90% of its storage-related functional code with the high-end DS8000 series, making it easier for users to integrate the two systems, the company said.

IBM made some bold claims about the performance of its new arrays, suggesting six times the performance of the Shark and 10 times the performance of an entry-level DMX from EMC Corp. However, it failed to give out specific performance numbers or provide benchmark data.

The second product, imaginatively named the DS8000, is a classic refrigerator-sized array, scales up to 640 drives with a maximum capacity of 192 TB. It is the first storage system to use IBM's Power 5 processor which can support up to 96 petabytes (PB) of internal and external data. Key to the P5 architecture is a "virtual storage system" feature -- a similar concept to Hitachi Data Systems' virtual machines -- a partitioning capability that lets users divvy up the processor resources in the system for different jobs. For example, the same storage array could be split into two and used for production and development work without either job interrupting the other. Initially, the DS8000 will only support two partitions but has the capability to eventually support 10 virtual machines. The difference between the P5's partitioning versus HDS' partitioning is unclear at this point, but so far, HDS has only talked about being able to partition cache and ports, whereas IBM's P5 can partition processor resources as well.

Blue Cross's Venable said IBM's partitioning is "soft" and "automated," meaning that resources can be dynamically allocated to whatever job requires priority, compared with HDS' technology, which is fixed and set in advance. Mike Kahn, analyst with the Clipper Group noted that "IBM is planning a full frontal attack on EMC" and barely mentioned HDS in its positioning statements.

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