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IBM spawns ESS offspring

IBM has introduced a smaller version of the Shark Enterprise Storage Server. But how does it compare to the bigger Shark?

PHOENIX--Today, the mainframe turns 40, and IBM is celebrating, as it were, by introducing a new midmarket storage platform, the Enterprise Storage Server (ESS) 750, lovingly referred to as "Baby Shark."

The ESS 750 is being announced in tandem with a new mainframe offering, the zSeries 890, a "Baby Mainframe."

Indeed, compared to the ESS 800, which scales to 55.9TBs, ESS 750 really is a baby, scaling in capacity from 1.1 to 4.6TBs. Furthermore, with only two processors, to the ESS 800's four or eight, it delivers less performance.

What it does have is support for ESCON, FICON, and Fibre Channel, and most of the functionality of its big Shark brethren.

There is one thing missing though – XRC, IBM's "storage-based disaster recovery and workload migration solution that provides the capability to copy data in real time to a remote location," as described on the company's web site.

But at one-third the price of an entry-level ESS 800, you can hardly argue. When purchased along side a zSeries 890, ESS 750 starts at $100,000. At over $100/GB, that's hardly a bargain for open systems folks, but Truskowski assures us that an ESS 800 starts at about 3 times that.

And without a zSeries 890? About $125,000 or $130,000, Truskowski estimates. And while ESS 750 is for sale to non zSeries 890 customers, "if we sell a z890 and it doesn't have an ESS with it, we should treat that as a defect," Truskowski says.

Furthermore, ESS 750 is fully upgradeable to and ESS 800, Truskowski assures us, with minimal effort on the part of IT staff. In contrast, upgrading from EMC's Symmetrix DMX 800, "a parts-on-the-floor upgrade" this is a non-disruptive replace, he says.

Truskowski concedes that the ESS 750 isn't right for everyone. "If you have a purely distributed, open systems environment, then a FAStT 900 makes sense."

But for analyst Randy Kerns of the Evaluator Group, the ESS 750 has everything to do with the FAStT– namely, the margins IBM doesn't reap when it sells it rather than its internally built ESS. Clearly, what IBM is trying to do by introducing a lower-end ESS, Kerns says, it to sell a product which "they manufacture and get higher margins on, to cannibalize sales of the FAStT 900."


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