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IBM Spectrum receives cloud friendly features

IBM Spectrum Protect and Spectrum Accelerate software-defined storage are updated with new cloud storage features, such as enabling direct backup to SoftLayer cloud.

IBM today added "cloud-ready" capabilities and other feature enhancements for its Spectrum Protect and Spectrum...

Accelerate products, the latest steps in the company's initiative to beef up its software-defined storage offerings.

In February, IBM rebranded a swath of products with the IBM Spectrum name while pledging to invest $1 billion over five years in software-defined storage. IBM Spectrum Protect is the former Tivoli Storage Manager backup software, and Spectrum Accelerate is the software extracted from IBM's XIV enterprise-class storage array, which runs on commodity x86-based hardware.

With Spectrum Protect 7.1.3, due next month, IBM did the necessary integration work to enable customers to back up to its SoftLayer cloud without the need for a gateway appliance or special software. Customers will be able to use SoftLayer's cloud object storage, which is based on OpenStack Swift, as a backup target. They can also use Swift as a backup target for an on-premises object store.

Tom O'Brien, the business line manager for Spectrum Protect, said IBM is looking to support additional cloud object storage services in the future.

Phil Goodwin, research director tracking storage systems at IDC, said IBM's major competitors in this space rely on hardware devices as the intermediary to the cloud, whereas IBM is providing a direct connection to the cloud.

Another key enhancement in Spectrum Protect is inline deduplication that IBM claimed would enable 10 times the capacity and three times the workload of the company's prior post-process deduplication.

IBM said a Spectrum Protect server could hold 1 PB of deduplicated data representing about 4 PB of actual protected data. The prior version of Spectrum Protect was capable of storing 100 TB of deduped data representing about 400 TB of managed data.

O'Brien said the deduplication ratio would vary by data source, and the 4-to-1 ratio represents IBM test results. Prescriptive guidance will be available for customers at the time of general availability on Sept. 11. The test environment was 80% VM workloads and a 20% mix of databases and files, according to IBM.

More critical than the dedupe ratio for William Bush, a technical services manager at Tectrade, is the rate at which data can be ingested into IBM's Spectrum Protect server. Tectrade, a UK-headquartered cloud service provider, manages more than 50 PB of data across more than 150 worldwide customer sites. The company orchestrates backups of about 13,000 systems per day.

IBM expects a daily ingestion rate of up to 100 TB per day through client-side deduplication, an improvement in performance and throughput over the 30 TB per day capable with the prior release. The daily ingestion rate with server-side dedupe should be up to 80 TB with server-side dedupe, an improvement over the 20 TB rate with the older technology, according to IBM.

"That's going to reduce the number of backup servers required for our customer base. We'll be able to ingest a larger amount of data with a smaller number of Spectrum Protect servers," Bush said.

Additional enhancements for IBM Spectrum Protect include:

  • Self-service portal for VMware administrators and users to recover file data from VMware image backups.
  • Front-safe cloud portal, resold by IBM, to enable multi-tenancy, onboarding and invoicing for public and private clouds. "That's a Web portal UI that basically sits on top of the Spectrum Protect, and it includes everything that you would need to deliver Spectrum Protect as a cloud service," O'Brien said. He cited potential user scenarios of a cloud service provider or an IT department looking to become internal service provider.
  • REST APIs to allow service providers and other customers to automate and orchestrate data protection in cloud environments.

IDC's Goodwin said the new Spectrum Protect features aim to simplify the use and management of the product. "Tivoli Storage Manager has been known to be somewhat of a complex product to manage in the past. So IBM is really trying to correct some of those issues," he said.

A key enhancement for IBM Spectrum Accelerate also carries a cloud theme. IBM plans to offer Spectrum Accelerate on Cloud, providing the Accelerate software configured for an IBM Cloud client as a service through the SoftLayer infrastructure. Customers will be able to deploy block storage on SoftLayer without having to buy new storage hardware or manage an appliance farm, according to IBM.

Jeff Barnett, business line manager for IBM's Spectrum Control management framework, said clients could deploy Accelerate on an x86 infrastructure-based cloud in the past, "but we pretty much left it up to the client."

"This just makes it a lot easier. They can just say how much space they want and begin paying on a monthly pay-per-use basis," Barnett said. He said customers can also choose the quality of service with options such as an archive with slow, cheap disks, or high-performance, active-data applications with fast, expensive disks.

Another new capability due next month will allow customers to deploy the Spectrum Accelerate storage software on the same x86, VMware-compliant server hardware that runs the production application workloads.

Among the main beneficiaries should be customers with small branch offices. Barnett said a user would have had to deploy application servers as well as three dedicated servers for Spectrum Accelerate in the past.

Barnett said IBM technically didn't prevent customers from running the Accelerate storage software and production applications on the same servers in the past but advised them not to do that. He said Accelerate will be able to run inside VMware virtual machines and potentially more in the future. IBM is looking to expand its hypervisor support, according to Barnett.

IBM said there are no separate fees for the new capabilities in Spectrum Accelerate and Spectrum Protect. The new features are due for general availability on Sept. 11.

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