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IBM unleashes updates for DS8000, XIV, deduplication and cloud

IBM adds solid-state, SATA and encryption support for the DS8000, as well as new ProtecTier appliances and a "baby" XIV Storage System.

IBM Corp. has floated a raft of product updates to coincide with its Pulse 2009 conference held this week in Las Vegas, where it also unveiled a new cloud computing strategy.

Storage product updates include adding support for SATA, solid-state drives (SSDs) and drive encryption on the DS8000 disk array; new ProtecTier data deduplication appliances; a 27 TB entry-level configuration for the XIV Storage System; and a preview of a new online backup option for Tivoli.

DS8000: SSDs, but no thin provisioning yet

IBM will join competitors, including EMC Corp., in supporting Fibre Channel (FC)-attached SSDs from STEC Inc. on the DS8000 enterprise system. DB2 for z/OS has also been updated to automatically place more active database tables on solid-state disks. New analytics features are planned later this year for Tivoli Total Storage Productivity Center 4.1, which will assist non-z/OS customers in identifying "hot spots" where SSDs might help performance.

The DS8000 now supports up to 1 TB SATA drives attached to the DS8000 through an FC-SATA bridge. IBM blogger Barry Whyte wrote in a post on the news that IBM has decided "there are valid situations where customers require large capacity drives in their enterprise controllers."

The DS8000 is also first to market with full disk encryption from Seagate Technology. "Much as [EMC bloggers] would have liked you to believe that the DS8000 was dead, with last year's RAID-6 support and now these three new drive types in this single announcement, we've dispelled most of their myths," Whyte wrote.

However, the DS8000 is still missing the thin provisioning IBM officials said was coming last year. Charlie Andrews, IBM's director of dynamic infrastructure solutions and offerings, said that's still in the works, but "given the way the DS8000 is usually used, security features were a higher priority."

At least one analyst disagrees. "For those using the DS8000 already, these updates give them more flexibility," said Tom Trainer, president of Analytico Inc. But in this economy, most of IBM's competitors are focused on features such as thin provisioning that can help users cut down on storage capacity, he said.

TS7650 ProtecTier Deduplication Appliances: Going after Data Domain?

What was previously a software-only offering from Diligent Technologies Corp. has now been fully melded with IBM storage hardware in the form of a gateway released last year and four new pre-configured appliances.

The TS7650 ProtecTier Deduplication Appliances will be offered with usable capacities of 7 TB, 18 TB, 36 TB and 36 TB with dual nodes. IBM claims 100 MBps performance with the 7 TB configuration, up to 250 MBps for the 18 TB model and up to 500 MBps with the 36 TB configurations.

David Russell, a vice president at Gartner Research, said he sees IBM gunning for midmarket data deduplication player Data Domain Inc. with these offerings. "They're just a little bit bigger and faster than some of Data Domain's configurations, which is to be expected when you're chasing a leader" he said. For example, Russell compared the entry-level configuration of the 7 TB model to Data Domain's DD530, which has 5.7 TB of usable capacity.

The ProtecTier product still lacks n-way clustering and distance replication, features that industry experts had been pushing Diligent to develop. Andrews said IBM is working on both, but declined to comment on when they'll be added.

Pricing for the new ProtectTier Deduplication Appliances begins at $100,000 for 7 TB configuration. They will begin shipping in March.

Baby XIV -- 27 TB, half rack

IBM is launching a smaller version of the parallel block storage array system it acquired from XIV in 2008. After releasing an 80 TB model last year, IBM now has a 27 TB entry-level configuration for the XIV.

Analytico's Trainer said this might indicate that IBM has found the demand for XIV to be further downmarket than it aimed for with the first release. "XIV also lacks replication, which tends to preclude it from full-scale enterprise deployments," he said.

Andrews said replication is also on the roadmap for XIV. IBM, like competitors EMC and NetApp, is trying to broaden the appeal of its products to small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), but the strategic direction for XIV is still the enterprise. "Even enterprise users don't necessarily want to start at 80 TB," Andrews said.

Pricing for the scaled down XIV system starts at $500,000, and it's available now.

Tivoli Storage as a Service (SaaS) to come

As part of its new cloud computing initiative, IBM revealed that it will offer in late March a cloud target to its Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files backup customers. This is similar to Symantec Corp.'s first SaaS offering, which was a cloud target for Backup Exec. The IBM cloud target is based on the SaaS infrastructure it acquired when it bought Arsenal Digital Solutions in 2007. A fully Web-delivered offering like Symantec's Online Backup is also a possibility for the future, according to Brian Reagan, IBM's director of business continuity and resiliency services.

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