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IBM: Overlap in revamped storage lineup is a plus

IBM announces more than 30 storage products and updates its DS8000 array. There may be overlap, but as an IBM Storage exec says, ""When there's no overlap, you don't have enough products."

IBM unveiled its full storage products lineup today, and more importantly, shed some light on its strategy for tying all the pieces of its storage strategy together.

IBM had either disclosed most of the products in today's official launch or else provided details about them on its websites. But on some of the products, IBM executives have been tight-lipped, particularly the IBM XIV Storage System that came out of its acquisition of storage startup XIV Ltd. last January.

A mum IBM led Industry watchers to wonder about overlap between some of IBM's storage products, particularly between the XIV and the DS8000 enterprise array that IBM has updated for better integration with its System z mainframes.

"We've developed systems like our DS8000 with a certain transactional workload in mind," said Charlie Andrews, director of product marketing for IBM System Storage. That workload is a database- or transaction-intensive processing environment, and the array is often attached to a mainframe. The clustered-block XIV Storage System is targeted for the burgeoning Web 2.0 marketplace.

"The largest growth in [storage] is in traditional open systems that now need some of the robustness traditionally only done in mission-critical transactional data center workloads," Andrews said. "Nobody is really well-positioned in that space. We want to take a nontraditionally designed box with unique capabilities into it."

The first version of the XIV Storage System released under the IBM brand only scales to 180 TB and, unlike most other scale-out storage systems, does not use a clustered file system. When it comes to scalability, IBM is being cautious in the first release, which "doesn't go bigger than 180 drives," Andrews said. "However, we absolutely will scale it bigger than that. You'll see scalability in both directions – new models will start at a smaller size and scale much larger."

 When there's no overlap, you don't have enough products.
Charlie Andrews
director of product marketingIBM System Storage

IBM's storage portfolio still has holes, such as lack of thin provisioning for the DS8000 and drive spin-down. Andrews said IBM must prioritize the features it rolls out. "With the DS8000 and high-end disk in general, thin provisioning is of less value – storage utilization in the mainframe world is high already."

Andrews also said that product overlap is inevitable if a vendor is meeting all storage needs. "When there's no overlap, you don't have enough products," he said. "Gaps between your products are nice places for other people to come live."

Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, agrees that overlap is necessary for IBM to stay competitive. "EMC and HP have been moving much more aggressively in storage, and this is IBM saying, 'We've got to fix that, '" he said. "It's part marketing campaign and part marketing study. IBM is saying, 'Here's a portfolio with a maximum amount of choice.' I expect it to get much less complex over time with the possibility of converging product lines, once IBM sees which ones customers are buying."

DS8000 updates and storage services 

DS8000 updates: Many of the DS8000 updates focus on integration with System z mainframes, including 450 GB 15,000 rpm Fibre Channel drive options for higher-capacity database applications, increased support for System z volumes and simplified conversion of non–IBM storage–mirroring environments on System z to IBM DS8000 and DS6000 with FlashCopy Manager and PPRC Manager. Others are more general: support for secure erase, variable LPARs, RAID 6 and IPv6. Elsewhere, the DR550 archiving product is getting a capacity boost with support for 1 TB drives.

IBM also launched two storage services. Its Scale-out File Services is a package of hardware, software and services to put together globally scalable file-based systems based on GPFS, clustered servers and connecting hardware. Remote managed infrastructure services is an outsourcing offering for data at remote sites. Three levels are available: The bronze level helps a user's environment, the silver level manages it for the user and the gold level includes data analytics and reporting. Prices was not announced for either service.

Marriage of SSDs and SAN Volume Controller

A project previewed last week called Project Quicksilver adds Fusion-io solid-state drives (SSD) to IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC) network-based block storage virtualization device. IBM, like server vendor Hewlett-Packard, says that SSDs are best deployed as close to the server's PCI bus as possible. EMC and other storage-centric vendors are putting SSDs behind the storage controller to make SSD a storage tier within the existing infrastructure. IBM sees SVC as the best of both worlds, according to Andrews, and will be moving to develop products out of its test bed with Fusion-io.

IBM also continues to develop its "racetrack memory," previewed in April and named because of how the data "races" around a nanoscale wire "track." IBM said it could lead to solid-state devices capable of holding up to 100 times more data than is possible today. Another project in the works is a high-octane data warehouse, code-named System s.

Combining the IP it acquired with NovusCG and other research, IBM also plans to develop algorithms and models on power consumption for its storage capacity planning tools. Information cloud services, similar to what's being offered with scale-out and remote management, are also being developed along with approaches to long-term archiving as application formats and protocols change.

Below is a list of products officially announced by IBM, along with corresponding articles on related developments from


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