Spectrum Suite Returns IBM to the Storage Game

The past four quarters haven’t been kind to IBM storage as the storage group racked up consecutive quarterly revenue losses. The Spectrum Suite V 1.0 is IBM’s latest software defined storage (SDS) initiative, one of the hottest trends in storage. The product release promises to start turning things around for IBM storage.

IBM Mobile Storage (Jared Lazarus/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

IBM Mobile Storage, Jamie,Thomas, GM Storage (Jared Lazarus/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

Driving interest in SDS is the continuing rapid adoption on new workload, new application, and new ways of storing and consuming data. The best thing about the Spectrum Suite is the way IBM is now delivering it—as a broad set of storage software capabilities that touch every type of storage operation. It doesn’t much matter which workloads or applications are driving it or what kind of storage you need.  Seventy percent of clients report deploying object storage, and 60% already are committed to SDS.  Over three-quarters of storage device interface (SDI) adopters also indicated a strong preference for single-vendor storage solutions.  This all bodes well for IBM’s Spectrum Suite.

Also working in IBM’s favor is the way storage has traditionally been delivered. Even within one enterprise there can be multiple point solutions from different vendors or even incompatible solutions from the same vendor. Companies need to transition among storage software offerings as business needs change, which entails adding and removing software licenses. This always is complex and may even lead to dramatic cost gyrations due to different licensing metrics and different vendor policies.  On top of that, procurement may not play along so quickly, leaving the organization with a gap in functionality.  Then there are the typical inconsistent user interfaces among offerings, which invariably reduces productivity and may increase errors.

Add to that the usual hassles of learning different products with different interfaces and different ways to run new storage processes. As a result, a switch to SDS may not be as smooth or efficient as you hoped, and it probably won’t be cheap.

IBM is counting on these storage complications, outlined above, and more to give it a distinct advantage in the SDS market  IBM should know; the company has been one of the offenders creating similar complications as they cobbled together a wide array of storage products with different interfaces and management processes over the years.

With the new Spectrum Storage Suite IBM finally appears to have gotten it right. IBM is offering a simplified and predictable licensing model for entire Spectrum Storage family. Pricing is pegged to the capacity being used, regardless of what that capacity is and how it is being used. Block, file, object—doesn’t matter; the same per-terabyte pricing applies. IBM estimates that alone can save up to 40% compared to licensing different software capabilities separately. Similarly, there are no software licensing hassles when migrating from one form of storage or data type to another. Even the cost won’t change unless you add capacity. Then, you pay the same per-terabyte cost for the additional capacity.

The Spectrum Suite and its licensing model work for mainframe shops running Linux on z and LinuxONE. Sorry, no z/OS yet.

The new Spectrum Storage approach has advantages when running a storage shop. There are no unexpected charges when using new capabilities and IBM isn’t charging for non-production uses like dev and test.

Finally, you will find a consistent user interface across all storage components in the Spectrum suite. That was never the case with IBM’s underlying storage hardware products but Spectrum SDS makes those difference irrelevant. The underlying hardware array doesn’t really matter; admins will rarely ever have to touch it.

The storage capabilities included in IBM Spectrum Storage Suite V1.0 should be very familiar to you from the traditional IBM storage products you probably are currently using. They include:

  • IBM Spectrum Accelerate, Version 11.5.3
  • IBM Spectrum Archive Enterprise Edition, Version 1.2 (Linux edition)
  • IBM Spectrum Control Advanced Edition 5.2
  • IBM Spectrum Protect Suite 7.1
  • IBM Spectrum Scale Advanced and Standard Editions (Protocols) V4.2
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software for SAN Volume Controller, Version 7.6
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software for SAN Volume Controller, Version 7.6 – Real-time Compression
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software for SAN Volume Controller, Version 7.6 – Encryption Software

With Spectrum Storage you can, for example, run SAN storage, storage rich servers, and a tape library. Add up the storage capacity for each and pay the per-terabyte licensing cost. Re-allocate the existing capacity between the different types of storage and your charges don’t change. Pretty nifty, huh? To DancingDinosaur, who has sat through painful discussions of complicated IBM software pricing slopes, this is how you spell relief. Maybe there really is a new IBM coming that actually gets it.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

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