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IBM SONAS gains policy-driven tiering, gateway to IBM XIV Storage System

IBM SONAS gets tiering previewed when scale-out NAS system first launched in February; brings ProtecTier data deduplication virtual tape library to midrange

IBM is enhancing its Scale Out Network Attached Storage (IBM SONAS) system first launched in February, adding policy-driven file tiering, larger capacity drives and a gateway that integrates the NAS with the IBM XIV block storage system.

In addition, IBM has moved to the midrange with its virtual tape library (VTL) data deduplication platform, launching the System Storage TS7610 ProtecTier Deduplication Appliance Express.

IBM previewed the tiering capabilities when it first announced the SONAS system, which is based on IBM's General Parallel File System (GPFS). They let customers move data across storage tiers on disk and tape quickly based on policies. This is enabled by the SONAS policy engine that IBM claims can scan 10 million files per minute per node and quickly scan billions of files when the nodes are used in parallel.

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The XIV gateway lets SONAS customers use XIV disk for back-end storage, bringing SONAS scanning and tiering capabilities to the XIV Storage System.

During IBM's earnings call Monday night, the vendor's executives said the XIV Storage System added more than 130 customers last quarter and revenue more than doubled from last year. IBM storage marketing manager Brad Johns said he anticipates customers using IBM SONAS with XIV Storage System to deliver block and file storage together. "We can provide almost unified storage based on XIV," he said. "The same XIV could be providing block data to a set of transactions and integrated to SONAS for file storage."

SONAS also now supports 600 GB SAS drives – up from 450 GB – and asynchronous replication between two systems at any distance for disaster recovery.

Mike Kahn, an analyst at The Clipper Group Inc., said he considers it a positive that IBM is integrating the systems rather than selling all of its storage as isolated platforms.

"IBM has a vast richness of products, but there's a complaint that they haven't been tying these products to each other," Kahn said. "So this is a positive thing as far as I'm concerned. I think it's more for XIV customers who are in place, not to sell XIV behind the SONAS."

SONAS gives IBM two NAS platforms – it also sells NetApp's FAS storage systems under the IBM N Series brand. IBM's Johns said the N Series is the firm's platform for mainstream NAS, while SONAS is aimed at customers "dealing with very large quantities of information. Clearly, high-performance computing is one of those markets. We view this as complementing our N Series. In environments where managing multiple N Series systems is getting to be burdensome, that's where this would fit."

The Clipper Group's Kahn said the line between the two products remains clear. "SONAS is a large-scale solution," he said. "If you're looking at something of a modest size, their version of the NetApp product line is appropriate."

ProtecTier scales down, takes on EMC Data Domain

The TS7610 ProtecTier Deduplication Appliance Express product is the first midrange virtual tape library IBM has delivered since it began shipping the dedupe VTL platform in 2008 after acquiring Diligent Technologies Inc.

IBM's Johns said IBM has sold 800 licenses for the TS7650 ProtecTier enterprise platform. The TS7610 is smaller (up to 4.5 TB of usable capacity in 3U) and less expensive (starting at $50,000) than the TS7650 and comes packaged with servers, adapters and storage. The TS7610 uses SAS disk, while the TS7650 users Fibre Channel drives. Both have virtual tape library interfaces, although Johns said IBM is considering versions with Ethernet connectivity.

IBM said the smaller systems have a sustained throughput of 80 MBps, and up to 12 TS7610s can replicate to a TS7650 in a central location.

Johns said the main competition for the TS7610 is EMC Corp.'s Data Domain DD6000 platform.

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