The unified system launch was part of a rollout of IBM storage products that includes automated tiering software for arrays and the cloud. IBM Active Cloud Engine is a new application, and IBM enhanced its Easy Tier software for moving data across tiers on arrays with solid-state drives (SSDs).
IBM first launched the Storwize V7000 a year ago as a Fibre Channel SAN. It includes the code stack from IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC) block storage virtualization device, and the user interface from its XIV enterprise system. IBM claims it has shipped approximately 4,500 Storwize V7000 systems in a year.
End users were raving about the XIV Gen3 interface, so IBM is taking it and moving it to the Storwize, DS8000 series and Scale Out Network Attached Storage. They're putting a common interface across all platforms.
-- David Hill, founder and analyst at Mesabi Group
The Storwize V7000 Unified includes file access, and the ability to manage block and file storage through one GUI. IBM is aiming it at EMC Corp.’s VNX unified storage platform launched last January when EMC collapsed its Clariion SAN and Celerra NAS families into one.
“IBM claims to have a single console for both block and file in contrast to EMC, which has two,” said David Hill, founder and analyst at Mesabi Group. “End users were raving about the XIV Gen3 interface, so IBM is taking it and moving it to the Storwize, DS8000 series and Scale Out Network Attached Storage [SONAS]. They're putting a common interface across all platforms.”
IBM also sells NetApp’s FAS line of unified storage as the IBM N Series through an OEM deal. IBM positions the N Series as its mainstream NAS platform, but those systems also support Fibre Channel and iSCSI, and NetApp considers FAS a multiprotocol system. The Storwize V7000 Unified is certain to raise more questions about the positioning of IBM’s homegrown storage against its NetApp products, which also include the Engenio storage systems that IBM sells as its DS5000 midrange SANs.
IBM also enhanced its global mirror capability in the Storwize V7000 Unified system, allowing systems to replicate data to and from SVC systems so any storage supported by SVC can be used as a target by the unified system. The Storwize V7000 platform now supports 200 GB and 400 GB SSDs. The original Storwize V7000 supported 300 GB SSDs.
Tiering across arrays and data centers
The Active Cloud Engine is a policy-driven engine that automatically moves files locally or across sites. It uses a global namespace so users can access documents regardless of where the files are physically located. IBM claims it can scan billions of files in minutes. Active Cloud Engine is available on the Storwize V7000 Unified and IBM SONAS 3.1 systems.
IBM also upgraded Easy Tier, which moves data across tiers inside an array but not geographically. The new Easy Tier version can move data across three types of drives.
Easy Tier first launched for the DS8700 enterprise array in 2010 with the ability to move data across two classes of drives. It has since been added to the Storwize V7000 and other DS8000 arrays. Easy Tier was developed primarily to automate tiering of data on systems using SSDs as a high-performance tier, and IBM executives say it will help prevent “SSD sprawl.” SSDs must be used as one of the tiers for Easy Tier implementations.
Easy Tier has also been upgraded with a feature called micro-tiering, which takes into consideration the specific drive and workload characteristics of each I/O to make better decisions for data migration. The software’s algorithm determines whether workloads on SSDs are small random I/Os or large sequential I/Os when migrating data to the SSD tier.
“They're using the algorithm to balance things out,” Mesabi Group's Hill said.
In addition, IBM added support for 3 TB drives on its DS8700, DS8800, XIV Gen3 and SONAS storage.