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Family of IBM storage arrays gets new low-cost options

IBM's DS8880 enterprise storage arrays are tightly integrated with the IBM z Systems and Power servers. The systems come with an open API for IBM Easy Tier software.

IBM this week upgraded its high-end enterprise IBM storage arrays, with new Power8 controllers and tighter integration with the vendor's disaster recovery (DR) capabilities.

The new IBM DS8880 enterprise-grade portfolio includes two hybrid storage models and an all-flash array enclosure module for mission-critical applications that can scale to 3 PB. The hybrid models include the enterprise-level DS8886 and the DS8884, which can scale up to 1.6 PB of hard disk drives and solid-state drives. There will also be an all-flash DS8888 model, expected in early 2016.

The DS8886 comes with dual six-core IBM Power8 processors, and it has a minimum of 128 GB and maximum of 2 TB of processor memory for cache and nonvolatile storage. The DS8886 will replace IBM's DS8870 system.

The DS8884 has dual eight-core or dual 16-core/24-core Power8 processors, and includes a minimum of 64 GB and a maximum of 256 GB of processor memory. Both new arrays support Fibre Channel and IBM FICON connectivity for mainframes

"The 8870 will be in production for at least another year," said Jeff Barber, vice president of storage at IBM. "We won't be adding horsepower to it, but we will provide an upgrade path to the new products."

The DS8884 has a starting price of $50,000 for a bare-bones configuration, but IBM anticipates the average pricing for the average configuration will range from $80,000 to $100,000. The average configuration cost for the DS8886 will be in the range of $200,000 to $400,000.

The DS8880 series competes with the highest line of enterprise arrays, such as EMC's VMAX, Hitachi Data Systems' Virtual Storage Platform, HP XP and startup Infinidat's Infinibox.

DS8880 systems support remote mirroring, and are integrated with IBM z Systems and Power platforms. Its DR capabilities include IBM FlashCopy, Metro Mirror, Global Mirror, Multiple Target Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy (MT-PPRC) and Copy Services Manager.

FlashCopy creates point-in-time copies that are quickly available when a request is made. Metro Mirror provides remote mirroring up to 186 miles. Global Mirror works at any distance and MT-PPRC lets customers set up secondary mirror systems, with six-nines availability. Copy Services Manager provides a single point to monitor and control all of the copy services.

The IBM DS8880 arrays include storage management features, such as intelligent caching algorithms, to accelerate performance and automated quality-of-service management.

Barber said the IBM storage arrays operate with the full IBM software stack. The DS8880 leverages the IBM Easy Tier software to dynamically optimize application performance and deal with hot spots across all the systems, without the need for administrators to manually tune the applications. The software also has a manual feature to move entire volumes across tiers or to other storage pools via a Dynamic Volume Relocation feature.

IBM has added an API with Easy Tier, so software developers can directly tie their applications to the DS8880. This API will be of particular interest to application developers, said Arun Taneja, consulting analyst for the Taneja Group Inc., in Hopkinton, Mass.

"I have not seen this with other products so far," Taneja said. "I can make the API available to applications and that application can smartly use the algorithms built into Easy Tier, so [it] can make its own decision on where to place certain types of data on certain types of storage."

Taneja said IBM has made its application servers, such as the Z series and Power systems, work better with the DS8880, and this tighter integration between the storage and servers is part of the vertical stack integration trend going on in the tech industry.

"This is the reason EMC and Dell are getting together," he said. "The world is swinging back to vertical stack integration. These guys are all trying to control the entire infrastructure stack. Nobody has all the pieces put together yet, but they are all trying to get there."

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