Posts Tagged ‘VMAX’

IBM Insists Storage is Generating Positive Revenue

May 19, 2017

At a recent quarterly briefing on the company’s storage business, IBM managers crowed over its success: 2,000 new Spectrum Storage customers, 1,300 new DS8880 systems shipped, 1500 PB of capacity shipped, 7% revenue gain Q1’17. This appeared to contradict yet another consecutive losing quarter in which only IBM’s Cognitive Solutions (includes Solutions Software and Transaction Processing Software) posted positive revenue.

However, Martin Schroeter, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (1Q’17 financials here), sounded upbeat about IBM storage in the quarterly statement: Storage hardware was up seven percent this quarter, led by double-digit growth in our all-flash array offerings. Flash contributed to our Storage revenue growth in both midrange and high-end. In storage, we continue to see the shift in value towards software-defined environments, where we continue to lead the market. We again had double-digit revenue growth in Software-Defined Storage, which is not reported in our Systems segment. Storage software now represents more than 40 percent of our total storage revenue.

IBM Flash System A9000

Highly parallel all-flash storage for hyperscale and cloud data centers

Schroeter continued: Storage gross margins are down, as hardware continues to be impacted by price pressure. To summarize Systems, our revenue and gross profit performance were driven by expected cycle declines in z Systems and Power, mitigated by Storage revenue growth. We continue to expand our footprint and add new capabilities, which address changing workloads. While we are facing some shifting market dynamics and ongoing product transitions, our portfolio remains uniquely optimized for cognitive and cloud computing.

DancingDinosaur hopes he is right.  IBM has been signaling a new z System coming for months, along with enhancements to Power storage. Just two weeks ago IBM reported achievements with Power and Nvidia, as DancingDinosaur covered at that time.

If there was any doubt, all-flash storage is the way IBM and most other storage providers are heading for the performance and competitive economics. In January IBM announced three all flash DS888* all flash products, which DancingDinosaur covered at the time here. Specifically:

  • DS8884 F (the F designates all flash)—described by IBM as performance delivered within a flexible and space-saving package
  • DS8886 F—combines performance, capacity, and cost to support a variety of workloads and applications
  • DS8888 F—promises performance and capacity designed to address the most demanding business workload requirements

The three products are intended to provide the speed and reliability needed for workloads ranging from enterprise resource planning (ERP) and financial transactions to cognitive applications like machine learning and natural language processing. Doubt that a lot of mainframe data centers are doing much with cognitive systems yet, but that will be coming.

Spectrum Storage also appears to be looming large in IBM’s storage plans. Spectrum Storage is IBM’s software defined storage (SDS) family of products. DancingDinosaur covered the latest refresh of the suite of products this past February.

The highlights of the recent announcement included the addition of Cloud Object Storage and a version of Spectrum Virtualize as software only.  Spectrum Control got a slew of enhancements, including new cloud-based storage analytics for Dell EMC VNX, VNXe, and VMAX; extended capacity planning views for external storage, and transparent cloud tiering for IBM Spectrum Scale.  The on-premises editions added consolidated chargeback/showback and support for Dell EMC VNXe file storage. This should make it clear that Spectrum Storage is not only for underlying IBM storage products.

Along the same lines, Spectrum Storage added VMware 6 support and the certified vSphere Web client. In the area of cloud object storage, IBM added native NFS access, enhance STaaS multi-tenancy, IPV6 support, and preconfigured bundles.

IBM also previewed enhancements coming in 2Q’17.   Of specific interest to DancingDinosaur readers will likely be  the likely updates to the FlashSystem and VeraStack portfolio.

The company is counting on these enhancements and more to help pull IBM out of its tailspin. As Schroeter wrote in the 1Q’17 report: New systems product introductions later in the year will drive improved second half performance as compared to the first. Hope so; already big investors are cashing out. Clients, however, appear to be staying for now.

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


IBM Unveils Enhanced Repackaged Spectrum Storage

February 9, 2017

IBM appears to be gaining traction with its growing Spectrum SDS family of storage products re-introduced this week. According to the company, 87 of the Fortune Global 100 use IBM Spectrum Storage. That breaks down to all 10 of the top 10 telecommunications companies and all 20 of the top 20 banks. In addition, 18 of the top 20 energy companies, 9 of the top 10 global healthcare companies, and 8 of the top 10 automobile manufacturers adopted Spectrum storage. In addition, IBM notes, 80 organizations pick IBM Spectrum storage every week.

Of course, that hasn’t been enough to turn incessant red ink into black. According to IBM’s 2016 year-end financials, systems (systems hardware—including storage—and operating systems software), posted revenues of $2.5 billion, down 12.5 percent. You can see DancingDinosaur’s report on the latest IBM financials here. Although IBM called out the z for gross profit margins improvements driven by z Systems performance there was nary a word about storage. Will follow upcoming quarterly reports to see if this increased traction translates into actual positive revenue. Stay tuned.

Over the shoulder shot of a group of business colleagues in a meeting around a conference table

IBM introduces Spectrum Computing, 6/16

The announcements this week included:

  • IBM Spectrum Storage Suite
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize
  • IBM Spectrum Control
  • IBM Spectrum Accelerate
  • IBM Cloud Object Storage

IBM Spectrum Storage isn’t completely new. DancingDinosaur first covered the Spectrum storage introduction in mid-February, 2015. Actually IBM began offering SDS products in 2014 and gained some kudos for it from IDC. The latest announcement really amounts to a repackaging of the products as the IBM Spectrum Storage Suite along with a variety of enhancements, some of which are quite interesting.

For example, IBM Cloud Object Storage software allows new use cases and enables a standalone object store managed by IBM Spectrum Control. It also adds a new storage tier behind IBM Spectrum Scale and a primary pool target behind IBM Spectrum Protect in the form of a cloud container. IBM also continues its innovative licensing arrangement by which you pay for your storage capacity and then can allocate and re-allocate that capacity freely.

Spectrum Cloud Object storage also introduces unified NFS/Object access. This allows companies to store data in a file system structure on object storage using NFS access capability and access data stored as files via either a file or object interface. It has been optimized for scalability and file-to-object migration as well as being able to scale to millions of users and buckets/containers. Finally, it now supports IPv6 management of devices and all nodes in configuration.

IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software also is interesting. For example, it now supports Supermicro SuperServer 2028U-TRTP+ in addition to existing support for Lenovo System x3650 M5. IBM envisions service providers and enterprises deploying Supermicro servers to build new services based on IBM Spectrum Virtualize software to deliver virtualized storage services at a lower price point. Take note: both of these are 2u x86 boxes. They can also offer disaster recovery as a service for clients with SVC.

Finally, IBM has enhanced Spectrum Control in V5.2.13. Among the new capabilities: improved storage insights through new cloud-based storage analytics for Dell EMC VNX, VNXe, and VMAX. This should enable users to improve application performance and reduce storage costs. It also will extend capacity planning views include external storage for IBM Spectrum Scale’s transparent cloud tiering. For on-premises software the latest Spectrum Control offers new support for Dell EMC VNXe file storage.

Overall, the new Spectrum Control should simplify the life of storage managers. “IBM Spectrum Control gives me one pane of glass to manage spinning disk, file system clusters, and object storage, “said Bob Oesterlin, Sr. Principal Storage Engineer, Nuance, as reported by IBM. The ability to span IBM storage as well as that of other vendors should prove a winner.

Combined with other capabilities, such as Spectrum Accelerate V11.5.4’s data-at-rest encryption, ability to flexibly encrypt existing hot data in minutes without disruption, and support for standard key management tools (IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager and SafeNet KeySecure) will add to the appeal of the enhanced IBM Spectrum Storage Suite. Will it be enough to turn IBM Systems’ red ink to black? We’ll all just have to watch the next few quarterly reports to know.

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


EMC Introduces New Mainframe VTL

August 16, 2012

EMC introduced the high end DLm8000, the latest in its family of VTL products. This one is aimed for large enterprise mainframe environments and promises to ensure consistency of data at both production and recovery sites and provide the shortest possible RPO and RTO for critical recovery operations.

It is built around EMC VMAX enterprise storage and its SRDF replication and relies on synchronous replication to ensure immediate data consistency between the primary and target storage by writing the data simultaneously at each. Synchronous replication addresses the potential problem latency mismatch that occurs with the usual asynchronous replication, where a lag between writes to the primary and to the backup target storage can result in inconsistent data.

Usually this mismatch exists for a brief period. EMC suggests the issue, especially for large banks and financial firms—its key set of mainframe target customers—is much more serious. Large financial organizations with high transaction volume, EMC notes, have historically faced recovery challenges because their mainframe tape and DASD data at production and secondary sites were never fully in synch.  As such, recovery procedures often slowed until the differences between the two data sets were resolved, which slowed the resulting failover.  This indeed may be a real issue but for only a small number of companies, specifically those that need an RTO and RPO of just about zero.

EMC used the introduction of the DLm8000 to beat up tape backup in general. Physical tape transportation by third party records management companies, EMC notes, hinders recovery efforts by reducing what it refers to as the granularity of RPOs while dramatically increasing the RTO.  In addition, periodic lack of tape drive availability for batch processing and for archive and backup applications can impair SLAs, further increasing the risks and business impact associated with unplanned service interruptions. That has been long recognized, but, remember EMC is a company that sells disk, not tape storage, and ran a Tape Sucks campaign after its purchase of Data Domain. What would you expect them to say? 

The DLm8000 delivers throughput of up to 2.7 GB/s, which it claims is 2.5x the performance of its nearest competitor. DancingDinosaur can’t validate that claim, but EMC does have a novel approach to generating the throughput. The DLm8000 is packed with eight Bus-Tech engines (acquired in its acquisition of Bus-Tech in Nov. 2010) and it assigns two FICON connections to each engine for a total of 16 FICON ports cranking up the throughput. No surprise they can aggregate that level of throughput.

EMC has not announced pricing for the DLm8000. The device, however, is the top of its VTL lineup and VMAX enterprise storage tops its storage line. With high throughput and synchronous replication, this product isn’t going to be cheap. However, if you need near zero RPO and RTO then you have only a few choices.

Foremost among those choices should be the IBM TS7700 family, particularly the 7740 and the 7720. Both of these systems provide VTL connectivity. The TS7700 avoids the latency mismatch issue by using a buffer to get the most optimal write performance and then periodically synch primary and target data. “Synchronous as EMC does it for VTL is overkill,” says an IBM tape manager. The EMC approach essentially ignores the way mainframe tape has been optimized.

Among the other choices are the Oracle Virtual Storage Manager and Virtual Library Extension. Oracle uses StorageTek tape systems. The Oracle approach promises to improve tape drive operating efficiencies and lower TCO by optimizing tape drive and library resources through a disk-based virtual tape architecture. HDS also has a mainframe tape backup and VTL product that uses Luminex technology.

EMC is a disk storage company and its DLm8000 demonstrates that. When it comes to backup, however, mainframe shops are not completely averse to tape. Disk-oriented VTL has some advantages but don’t expect mainframe shops to completely abandon tape.

In breaking storage news, IBM today announced acquiring Texas Memory Systems (TMS), a long established (1978) Texas company that provides solid state memory to deliver significantly faster storage throughput and data access while consuming less power. TMS offers its memory as solid state disk (SSD) through its RamSan family of shared rackmount systems and Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) cards. SSD may be expensive on a cost per gigabyte basis but it blows away spinning hard disk on a cost per IOPS. Expect to see IBM to use TMS’s SSD across its storage products as one of its key future storage initiatives, as described by Jai Menon, CTO and VP, Technical Strategy for IBM Systems and Technology Group (STG), at last June’s Storage Edge 2012 conference. BottomlineIT, DancingDinosaur’s sister blog, covered it here back in June. BTW, Edge 2013 already is scheduled for June 10-14 in Las Vegas.

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