SmartCloud Storage Access Simplifies Private Cloud Storage

IBM has long been offering storage as part of its SmartCloud family of products.  In early February it introduced SmartCloud Storage Access, a storage software appliance that looks to be a game changer, at least for IBM storage shops. It offers easy private cloud storage-as-a-service through a self-service portal for storage provisioning, monitoring and reporting. DancingDinosaur, however, also finds the software appliance concept intriguing, especially as it can be applied to simplifythe zEnterprise.

Two issues are driving interest in SmartCloud Storage Access. The first is a report that labor costs will consume 70% of IT spending this year. The second: 90% of organizations expect to adopt or deploy a cloud model in the next three years.  It’s no surprise that IBM thinks the time is right to introduce SmartCloud Storage Access as a way to facilitate storage in the cloud while lowering the IT labor costs associated with storage.

IBM SmartCloud Storage Access enables organizations to implement a private cloud storage service through which users can create an account, provision storage, and upload files over the Internet—with only a few clicks and without involving IT labor if done through the automated self-service GUI portal. Not only will SmartCloud Storage Access reduce IT labor involvement but it should speed the delivery of storage resources, which in turn boosts user productivity.  No longer do they have to wait for a storage admin to provision storage for them.

Unlike several IBM appliances, SmartCloud Storage Access is a software-only appliance; no hardware ships with it. Of course, if you are using it with a private cloud, you still need to populate your private cloud with physical storage. For that you can use most of the IBM storage products. The SmartCloud Storage Access appliance itself installs on an Intel server running VMware. Basically, it is a VMware image loaded on a VMware virtual machine.

As an appliance, all the technical complexity of the storage provisioning process is hidden; this abstraction to the storage-as-a-service level relieves the user of dealing with conventional storage provisioning. It simplifies and standardizes monitoring, reporting, and control to reduce operational complexity. It also does away with the typical collection of point tools required to address various storage functions.

It allows admins to quickly and easily set up a private cloud storage service complete with elastic capacity, automatic or routed approval flows, multiple service classes with different QoS. Admins can simply define the service without concern about the underlying technical details. The SmartCloud Storage Access appliance hides all the complexity. It also simplifies monitoring and reporting.

The bottom line: it delivers storage provisioning on demand in seconds and with minimal involvement of IT. The result is increased productivity for both storage users and IT; fast, consistent high quality service; and high operational efficiency. Reduced IT involvement translates into better TCO while automated self-service leads to faster deployment and higher end user satisfaction.

And it can play with most of IBM’s storage lineup; XIV, Storwize V7000 and V7000 Unified, and SONAS.  The DS8000 and other block storage systems are not expected to play much of a role in SmartCloud Storage Access; clouds today primarily focus on file storage.

In recent years the idea of a private storage cloud has emerged as the Holy Grail of storage; something that would finally put an end to the difficulty of responding to rapidly escalating storage demands for different types of storage. But it proved difficult to implement.

As a software appliance, however, SmartCloud Storage Access already is proving effective, as early adopters like ETH Zurich University and the Tallink Group attest.  If the software appliance concept can simplify private storage clouds what other aspects of enterprise computing can it help?  One IBM researcher already thinks that because it can hide complicated platform specifics, the concept is a particularly good fit for System z.  More on this to follow.

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