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IBM set to launch block-level XIV Storage System

IBM's XIV Storage System offers 50% more storage -- 180 TB -- over the model that shipped when IBM acquired XIV Ltd. in January, but the system still lacks scalability, replication and System z support.

IBM is ready to launch its block-level Web 2.0 system acquired from XIV Ltd. under the IBM brand, according to product information on IBM's Web site.

XIV was selling its Nextra system when IBM acquired the company last January in a deal worth at least $300 million, but IBM wanted to make enhancements before bringing the Nextra system out under its own brand. IBM would not officially comment on the release timing of the IBM XIV Storage System, but information on its site, materials obtained by and IBM sources reveal the details.

According to IBM's site, the system will be launched in the U.S. and other countries on Friday. An IBM source said that the Nextra name will disappear on the advice of company lawyers because "it's too close to another name for another company, and we have been instructed that we can no longer use that name."

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The new system includes a redesigned box and software upgrade from the XIV-branded version. The upgraded system supports 180 TB raw storage and 82.5 TB usable storage (up from 120 TB raw storage and 51 TB usable storage), 120 GB cache (up from 32 GB) and up to twenty-four 4 Gbps Fibre Channel and 6 GigE Ethernet ports for iSCSI (from six 2 Gbps Fibre Channel and 6 GigE). The XIV Storage System has no NAS support.

The software includes thin provisioning, support for up to 16,000 snapshots, writeable snapshots and synchronous mirroring. The system is designed to act as a redundant grid of storage.

Limitations of the new XIV Storage System, according to EMC blogger Barry Burke, include:

• no scalability – it's a one-box configuration, with 180 TB and less than half of that is usable

• no asynchronous mirroring or replication

• no support for IBM System z mainframes

• no concurrent code load for nondisruptive installation of firmware and software

Burke also wrote, "With the XIV Storage System, you can use any type of RAID protection you'd like, as long as you like RAID 1." According to IBM literature, the system doesn't even support RAID 1 because it mirrors only 1 GB partitions and doesn't support RAID groups.

IBM sources and documents say the roadmap includes asynchronous mirroring, scalability, concurrent code load, and support for mainframes and RAID 5 and 6, but no timeframes are given.

XIV Storage System not competing with DS8000

The launch takes place as industry insiders wonder when IBM will refresh its enterprise DS8000 system. IBM is instructing its sales force not to position the XIV Storage System as competition to the DS8000, but instead to go after new accounts and Internet companies, service providers and customers in the digital media and clustered computing markets.

However, its literature does list DS8000 rivals, such as the EMC's Symmetrix DMS and Hitachi Data Systems' USP, as competitors. It also considers 3PAR's InServ Storage Server and EMC's midrange Clariion, Hewlett-Packard's EVA and HDS' AMS systems as competitive, along with systems from Compellent Technologies and Pillar Data Systems.

IBM product materials do not identify systems from its OEM partners NetApp and Data Direct Networks as competitors, although those vendors have systems aimed at IBM's XIV Storage System target market.

IBM's Web site claims that the XIV Storage System "is a good fit for clients who want to be able to grow capacity without managing multiple tiers of storage to increase performance and reduce cost. The XIV Storage System is especially well suited as a consolidated utility storage for fast growing, dynamic mixed and emerging workloads."

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