This week IBM announced IBM Spectrum Storage, targeting both software defined storage (SDS) and the hybrid cloud, and moving them back to center stage with their storage initiatives.
Interestingly, I worked on the software side of storage at IBM decades ago during far harder times. Seeing this group pull together to create something very powerful gives me some personal pleasure as a result. Let’s explore that this week.
One of the problems with IBM's software storage offerings in the past was that they were distributed in various groups across the company. The collapse of the storage division and subsequent technology acquisitions resulted in fragmentation which created a lot of confusion both outside and inside the firm.
The announcement of IBM Spectrum Storage effectively ends this problem, bringing not only most of IBM’s software storage assets under a single brand and process but also uniting most of the distributed development groups. IBM now has a cohesive team, which will allow them to approach the market more like a storage pure play company.
Earlier this week, I had a chance to talk with City of Hope, which had implemented IBM FlashSystem Storage and reported almost unbelievable performance for an equally unbelievable cost. This was a mixed account that looked at a cross section of the alternatives and concluded that, for the price, nothing else was even close. Certainly, it is a powerful endorsement from a health care provider with massive data capacity and performance requirements.
If flash is the future, and I’m one of the folks who believes it is, then it appears that IBM plans to provide the highest value flash storage systems in the segment. In effect, their goal is to create products that provide so much for the money that customers won’t even consider anyone else.
To make a value play, they clearly can’t go with a forklift strategy, forcing customers to replace all they have in order to make use of their technology. Their secret sauce is tuning the software defined storage system for heterogeneous environments so that adding IBM Spectrum Storage components to an existing solution with servers, networking, and even other storage components from other vendors is as painless as they can make it.
This means a lot of the work has gone into making this family of products very easy to order and install in existing plants. A lot of the innovation has gone into making the related problems go away. Having worked on projects like this while at IBM myself, I can tell you this is neither trivial nor easy, making their progress particularly impressive.
This gives IBM an offering that incrementally provides value while minimizing the cost of the deployment to the near absolute minimum necessary for any third party vendor to dovetail on an existing datacenter. This is particularly important for hybrid cloud solutions where interoperability is critical.
In my conversation with the City of Hope, they mentioned that because the IBM FlashSystem was itself highly redundant, they didn’t feel they needed additional redundancy. So far, that has resulted in both their ability to meet their very aggressive SLAs and keep the overall cost of the deployment to a minimum.
Building redundancy into a product is hardly new for IBM as it was an historic advantage of later mainframe designs, but it is rare enough in these new storage systems that it is very unusual to see one with a single point of failure that can perform as the City of Hope’s system does.
This once again shows the result of IBM’s laser-like focus on providing the best value in the market because additional redundancy can significantly up the cost of a related deployment.
With the announcement of IBM Spectrum Storage, the firm is looking more like it did when it once dominated the industry. Using a value based strategy, they are already providing solutions like IBM FlashSystem Storage that are more than competitive against their peers. This feels like the old IBM I once knew, and, I expect, a lot of old IBM employees are feeling just a tad proud this week.
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