IBM Redefines Software Defined Storage

On Feb. 17 IBM unveiled IBM Spectrum Storage, a new storage software portfolio designed to address data storage inefficiencies by changing the economics of storage with a layer of intelligent software; in short, a software defined storage (SDS) initiative.  IBM’s new software creates an efficient data footprint that dynamically stores every bit of data at the optimal cost, helping maximize performance and ensuring security, according to the IBM announcement here.

Jared Lazarus/Feature Photo Service for IBM

Courtesy of IBM: IBM Storage GM demonstrates new Spectrum storage management dashboard

To accelerate the development of next-generation storage software, IBM included plans to invest more than $1 billion in its storage software portfolio over the next five years. The objective: extend its storage technology leadership, having recently been ranked #1 in SDS platforms for the first three quarters of 2014 by leading industry analyst firm IDC. The investment will focus on R&D of new cloud storage software, object storage, and open standard technologies including OpenStack.

“Traditional storage is inefficient in today’s world where the value of each piece of data is changing all the time,” according to Tom Rosamilia, Senior Vice President, IBM Systems, in the announcement. He went on: “IBM is revolutionizing storage with our Spectrum Storage software that helps clients to more efficiently leverage their hardware investments to extract the full business value of data.”

Two days later IBM announced another storage initiative, flash products aimed directly at, EMC. The announcement focused on two new all-flash enterprise storage solutions, FlashSystem V9000 and FlashSystem 900. Each promises industry-leading performance and efficiency, along with outstanding reliability to help lower costs and accelerate data-intensive applications. The new solutions can provide real-time analytical insights with up to 50x better performance than traditional enterprise storage, and up to 4x better capacity in less rack space than EMC XtremIO flash technology.

Driving interest in IBM Spectrum storage is research suggesting that less than 50% of storage is effectively utilized. Storage silos continue to be rampant throughout the enterprise as companies recreate islands of Hadoop-based data along with more islands of storage to support ad hoc cloud usage. Developers create yet more data silos for dev, testing, and deployment.

IBM Storage Spectrum addresses these issues and more through a SDS approach that separates storage capabilities and intelligence from the physical devices. The resulting storage is self-tuning and leverages analytics for efficiency, automation, and optimization. By capitalizing on its automatic data placement capabilities IBM reports it can meet services levels while reducing storage costs by as much as 90%.

Specifically, IBM Spectrum consists of six storage software elements:

  1. IBM Spectrum Control—analytics-driven data management to reduce costs by up to 50%
  2. IBM Spectrum Protect—optimize data protection to reduce backup costs by up to 38%
  3. IBM Spectrum Archive—fast data retention that reduces TCO for archive data by up to 90%
  4. IBM Spectrum Virtualize—virtualization of mixed environment to store up to 5x more data
  5. IBM Spectrum Accelerate—enterprise storage for cloud, which can be deployed in minutes instead of months
  6. IBM Spectrum Scale—high-performance, highly scalable storage for unstructured data

Each of these elements can be mapped back to existing IBM storage solutions.  Spectrum Accelerate, for example, uses IBM’s XIV capabilities. Spectrum virtualization is based on IBM’s San Volume Controller (SVC) technology. Spectrum Scale is based on GPFS, now called Elastic Storage, to handle file and object storage at massive scale yet within a single global name space.  Spectrum Archive, based on IBM’s LTFS, allows an organization to treat tape as a low cost, fully active tier.  In effect, with IBM Spectrum, an organization can go from flash cache to tape, all synced worldwide within a single name space.

A big part of what IBM is doing amounts to repackaging the capabilities it has built into its storage systems and proven in various products like XIV or GPFS or SVC as software components to be used as part of an SDS deployment. This raises some interesting possibilities. For instance, is it cheaper to use Spectrum Accelerate with a commodity storage array or buy the conventional XIV storage product?  The same probably could be asked of Spectrum Virtualize with SVC or Spectrum Archive with LTFS.

DancingDinosaur asked the Spectrum marketing team exactly that question.  Their response: With Accelerate you have the flexibility to size the server to the performance needs of the solution, so while the software cost remains the same regardless of the server you select. The cost of the server will vary depending on what the client needs. We will make available a sizing guide soon so each client’s situation can be modeled based on the solution requirements. In all cases it really depends on the hardware chosen vs. the (IBM) appliance. If the hardware closely matches the hardware of the appliance then costs differences will be minimal. It all depends on the price the client gets, so yes, in theory, a white box may be lower cost.

With Spectrum Accelerate (XIV), IBM continues, the client can also deploy the software on a cluster of just 3 servers (minimum) and leverage existing Ethernet networking.  This minimum configuration will be much lower cost than the minimum XIV system configuration cost. Spectrum Accelerate can also be licensed on a monthly basis, so those clients with variable needs or deploying to the cloud the client can deploy and pay for only what they need when they need it.

It is a little different for the other Spectrum offerings. DancingDinosaur will continue chasing down those details. Stay tuned. DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran IT analyst and writer. Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Follow more of his IT writing on Technologywriter.com and here.

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One Response to “IBM Redefines Software Defined Storage”

  1. Legacy Storage vs. Software Defined Storage at IBM Edge2015 | DancingDinosaur Says:

    […] layer. To see what DancingDinosaur posted on Spectrum Storage in February when it was unveiled click here. Spectrum became the subject of dozens of sessions at the conference. Check out a general sampling […]

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