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IBM Storage Solutions draw up blueprint for blockchain storage

IBM offers up blueprints for blockchain storage, with NVMe arrays and software for scale-out.

IBM is now tackling blockchain storage. It is doing so through reference architectures that include flash arrays, scale-out file systems, cloud object storage and data protection.

The IBM Storage Solutions for IBM Blockchain were among the latest set of reference architectures -- IBM calls them blueprints -- launched by the vendor. These blueprints are designed to help IT organizations and channel partners speed deployments of container- and cloud-based applications through pretested and validated configurations of hardware and software. IBM also added blueprints for analytics and private cloud deployments.

The IBM blockchain storage infrastructure plan includes the vendor's NVMe-based FlashSystem 9100 and LinuxOne Rockhopper II hardware, as well as Spectrum Virtualize, Spectrum Copy Data Management and Spectrum Protect Plus software. FlashSystem 9100’s data-at-rest encryption can secure both on-chain and off-chain data, said Eric Herzog, chief marketing officer and vice president of worldwide storage channels at IBM.

Chris Kanthan, a storage research manager at IDC, said the speedy NVMe-based flash arrays would also help to address the performance challenges with blockchain deployments. Kanthan said IBM is laying the groundwork for blockchain adoption, which he said increased in 2018 after languishing for years.

"Blockchain tends to get lumped into cryptocurrencies, but it's far from that," Steve McDowell, a senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, wrote in an email. "Enterprises are using the technology to provide transparent, traceable transactions in everything from healthcare to accounting and supply chain management."

Other storage products in IBM Storage Solutions for IBM Blockchain include Spectrum Virtualize, Spectrum Scale file storage, IBM Cloud Object Storage, Spectrum Protect Plus backup software and Spectrum Copy Data Management.

McDowell said he views the IBM blockchain storage design as a "huge step forward" for the finance and healthcare industries, where IBM has a strong presence. He said finance and healthcare IT shops may not have a lot of experience in emerging technologies, and the IBM Storage Solutions for IBM Blockchain blueprints offer the chance for a "quick start to get a solution integrated and deployed with a minimal learning curve."

The new IBM Storage Solution for Analytics gives customers the option to use the NVMe-based FlashSystem 9100 in a pretested configuration with the IBM Cloud Private for Data offering, which the vendor's data and AI division introduced in 2018.

IBM also added support for persistent and object storage in containerized workloads by adding Spectrum Scale to its Cloud Private for Data blueprints. Spectrum Scale, based on IBM's General Parallel File System, brings scale-out file storage support to the private cloud blueprints, which previously only included Spectrum Connect block storage.

IBM storage portfolio updates

NFS and SMB support for IBM Cloud Object Storage

IBM also integrated NFS and SMB file access for Linux- and Windows-based applications in IBM Cloud Object Storage. Customers with current support contracts can download software that deploys as a virtual machine on VMware to enable the NFS and SMB support. The IBM Cloud Object Storage previously required third-party software for file access.

Amita Potnis, a storage research manager at IDC, said IBM is late to market with its NFS and SMB file access, because competing object storage products already have the capability. Potnis said IBM will likely position its cloud object storage for newer workloads, such as data analytics or media streaming.

But Scott Sinclair, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., said he doesn't think IBM is late with its NFS and SMB support. "The need for multiprotocol access is just starting to take off, with the rise of workloads such as analytics that are designed to extract more data from unstructured storage," he said.

Data protection updates

IBM Storage's first-quarter portfolio update also extended to its data protection products. The Spectrum Protect Plus software that IBM launched in 2017 to target virtualized workloads will add the ability to back up data to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. The product previously could offload data to IBM Cloud, IBM Cloud Object Storage and the higher-end, more full-featured IBM Spectrum Protect product.

Another new capability in Spectrum Protect Plus is the ability to back up data from Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, 2016 and 2019, as well as the community and enterprise editions of MongoDB. Spectrum Protect Plus can integrate with Spectrum Protect or run as a stand-alone backup software package for entry-level and midmarket companies.

Spectrum Protect previously supported Exchange 2013 and 2016, and it's adding support for Exchange 2019. IBM also improved Spectrum Protect's web-based graphical user interface and some of the management capabilities.

IBM's management updates will also extend to its FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R arrays. IBM is embedding AI technology into the FlashSystem array's management software to help customers do capacity planning. Herzog said the AI technology would operate in the background and check storage volumes to determine if files are benefiting from deduplication and compression. The nondisruptive update is available free to FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R customers with current support contracts.

"I love seeing AI deployed like this," McDowell wrote. "Dell EMC described similar features when it launched its PowerMax product last summer. It will ultimately change how systems are designed, but these are still early days."

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