Thursday, October 6, 2022

IBM: Storage as a Service Review

IBM’s Storage as a Service (STaaS) solution delivers the flexibility of cloud storage to on-premises and hybrid cloud data centers. 

IBM will deliver, install, and maintain the high-speed fully solid-state drive (SSD) block storage wherever a customer needs it.

See below to learn all about IBM Storage as a Service and where is stands in the storage sector:

IBM: Storage as a Service and the storage market

IBM’s on-site Storage as a Service solution lands in between two segments of the overall storage market. First, it competes in the global next-generation data storage market that focuses on file and object-based storage and block storage solutions, including hard disk drives (HDDs), SSDs, and tape drives.

Grand View Research estimated a value of $53.1 billion for the global next-generation data storage market in 2019, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.5% from 2019 to 2025 to reach $118.22 billion. This aligns with a projection by KBV Research in the same year, which estimated a CAGR of 12.9% and a market size of $106.3 billion by 2024.

There are several competitors in this market: such as, Dell Technologies; Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE); Hitachi Vantara; Micron; NetApp; Pure Storage; and Western Digital.

As an SSD block storage service, IBM’s STaaS offering competes as an operating expense (OpEx) directly against a data center’s capital expense (CapEx) option to purchase other SSD drives. The competitors in this more narrow segment consists of several well-known brands: including, Kingston Technology Company; KIOXIA; Micron; Seagate; and Western Digital.

IBM does not disclose revenue for this category, but in 2020, Allied Market Research forecasted that the value of the SSD market to be $17.85 billion, growing with a CAGR of 10.2% to reach $46.89 billion in 2030. Verified Market Research anticipated a larger market of $27.62 billion the same year, growing at a more robust CAGR of 14.96% and already reaching $84.12 billion by 2028.

IBM Storage as a Service key features

  • High capability storage
      • Latency as low as 50 μs
      • Unlimited capacity
      • Scale capacity up or down as needed
      • 100% guaranteed uptime with HyperSwap configuration installed by IBM Lab Services
      • All-flash and hybrid flash storage options
  • Cloud-level service for local data centers
    • Deployable on-premises 
    • Life cycle services manages the storage devices
    • Devices can be upgraded to higher performance tiers
    • Full-service system setup, installation, cabling, and configuring
    • IBM capacity growth monitoring

IBM Storage as a Service key benefits

When data center managers select IBM’s Storage as a Service, they can take advantage of the following benefits:

Cloud flexibility

When adopting cloud resources, data center managers seek unlimited scale and flexibility for capacity and pricing. IBM’s Storage as a Service can start small, grow as large as needed, or shrink if required to provide the flexibility of the cloud for an on-site data center.

No technical debt

When purchasing hard drives, data center managers tend to become locked into technology until it fails or outlives its technical utility. By switching to IBM’s Storage as a Service, data center managers can select the level of quality they need and obtain full system upgrades every three to four years with the same predictable monthly payment.

Full control

Some organizations hesitate to transition to the cloud, because their data is regulated or sensitive. These data centers must maintain full control of the data from the virtual machine (VM) down to the bare metal. Adopting IBM’s Storage as a Service provides flexibility of cloud pricing and scale while maintaining full physical control.

Predictable pricing and cash flow

When building out a data center, obtaining a sufficient number of high-end hard drives can be a huge expense. If these drives need to be purchased outright, accounting rules require the purchase to be recognized as a capital expense, and the purchase ties up large amounts of cash.

By switching to a storage-as-a-service solution, the data center manager avoids tying up cash flow, obtains predictable subscription pricing, and converts the purchase to an operating expense.

IBM Storage as a Service use cases

IBM’s Storage as a Service provides financial flexibility and full-service maintenance for its flagship FlashSystem solutions. Customer stories illustrate the benefits of those FlashSystem products:

Compass Health Brands

Compass Health Brands, a consumer medical product manufacturer, experienced business interruptions and order delays, because its existing storage solutions maxed out the internal storage disk system and could not finish overnight batching jobs.

“It wasn’t getting done until 8 a.m.,” says Andrew Lesak, director of technical services, Compass Health Brands. 

“We get containers from overseas, so if you need to make an adjustment to the shipment, you’ve got to do it ASAP.”

The Compass Health Brands team selected IBM’s storage solutions for their ease of implementation and cost and because the data could transition without shutting down their business.

“We wanted to minimize the impact to the business regarding downtime,” Lesak says. “The IBM FlashSystem solution allowed us to do the data migration while we were live and without any impact to the users — that was huge.”

Electrolux

Home appliance manufacturer Electrolux wanted to focus more on its core business and less on the management of its IT infrastructure. 

However, its existing solution could not keep up with workloads or allow for an integrated, global business insight.

Turning to IBM computing and storage solutions enabled Electrolux to increase their capabilities as well as meet future needs and reduce management burden.

“With data volumes increasing each year, we anticipated that our existing disk storage devices would struggle to meet our future needs, especially as we expected to increase our infrastructure capacity by up to 10% in the years ahead,” says an Electrolux spokesperson. 

“Because IBM FlashSystem solutions offer a rich array of compression tools and low-latency performance, we knew that IBM technologies would be a good option for us in the long-term.”

Honda Pakistan

The joint venture between Honda Motor Company Limited and the Atlas Group of Companies, also known as Honda Pakistan, wanted to grow its dealership network by over 60% but needed a solution that could maintain its high standards for after-sales service as it grew. 

The company recognized it needed to process dealership order data real-time to automatically forecast and replenish spare parts.

By selecting IBM computing and storage solutions, Honda Pakistan increased its computing power with fewer systems and increased the capabilities for their SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution.

“In the past, generating reports on spare parts orders from our dealerships across Pakistan required up to 20 minutes to complete,” says Imran Khan, assistant manager of SAP BASIS, Honda Atlas Cars Pakistan Limited. 

“Since moving our SAP ERP data to IBM FlashSystem, built with IBM Spectrum Virtualize, we’ve slashed these reports down to just four minutes — a reduction of 80%.”

IBM Storage as a Service differentiators

When selecting IBM’s Storage as a Service solution, data center managers often look for the following differentiators:

Brand name

Data center managers understand that IBM continues to provide technical leadership in the data storage and data center computing markets, but they also understand that the non-technical executives will all recognize IBM. Selecting IBM as a vendor minimizes concerns for other executives regarding financial stability or long-term support.

IBM Expert Care and partner network

IBM and its certified partners will perform all needed installations and connections to establish the Storage as a Service storage in a data center. Should any issues arise, the Expert Care solution should ensure prompt resolution.

Additionally, IBM’s worldwide network of support and resale partners can provide consulting and support on how to properly integrate and optimize the storage solution.

Storage expertise and options

IBM’s Storage as a Service incorporates IBM’s all-SSD high-performance FlashSystem. This solution also incorporates IBM’s Spectrum Virtualize to create a single virtual storage container across all of the physical drives.

In addition, customers can also tap into a number of other valuable options and technologies including:

  • IBM Storage Insights: artificial intelligence (AI)-driven monitoring to aid data management and forecast data use
  • IBM Spectrum Scale: Distributed file and object storage
  • IBM Cyber Resiliency: Also known as Safeguarded Copy, the technology creates automated snapshot safeguarded copies on dedicated hardware
  • IBM Watson: AI solutions

User reviews of IBM Storage as a Service

Customers often deploy IBM STaaS for all-flash drive arrays, which are marketed as IBM FlashSystem deployments. The IBM FlashSystem 7200 was selected as a representative product for review rating purposes.

Review site Rating
Gartner Peer Insights 4.9 out of 5
TrustRadius 8.9 out of 10
G2 4.3 out of 5
PeerSpot 4.2 out of 5

IBM Storage as a Service pricing

IBM prices their Storage as a Service solution on a terabyte (TB)-per-month basis with one- to five-year term commitments and offers an online price estimator. Prices depend upon four tiers of service based upon performance capabilities:

  • Extreme: Tier 1
    • Minimum capacity 25 TB
    • 4,500 minimum Performance Input-Output Operations per physical used TB with usage up to 85% of the usable capacity
    • 100 gigabytes per second (GBps) maximum read throughput
    • 22 GBps maximum write throughput
    • Prices start at $225 per TB per month for a five-year commitment
    • Recommended for mission critical workloads, AI, machine learning (ML), or analytics
  • Premium: Tier 2
    • Minimum capacity 50 TB
    • 2,250 minimum Performance Input-Output Operations per physical used TB with usage up to 85% of the usable capacity
    • 45 GBps maximum read throughput
    • 22 GBps maximum write throughput
    • Prices start at $116 per TB per month for a five-year commitment
    • Recommended for general purpose databases, relational analytics, and virtual desktops
  • Balanced: Tier 3
    • Minimum capacity 100 TB
    • 800 minimum Performance Input-Output Operations per physical used TB with usage up to 85% of the usable capacity
    • 45 GBps maximum read throughput
    • 10 GBps maximum write throughput
    • Prices start at $80 per TB per month for a five-year commitment
    • Recommended for data backup, logging, streaming content, image processing
  • Capacity: Tier 4
    • Minimum capacity 100 TB
    • 60 (DRP) to 140 (regular pool) minimum Performance Input-Output Operations per physical used TB with usage up to 85% of the usable capacity
    • 19 GBps maximum read throughput
    • 6 GBps maximum write throughput
    • Prices start at $31 per TB per month for a five-year commitment

Potential customers should note that the minimum performance input-output (I/O) operations per TB can vary by workload and may not reach minimum ideal performance. Customers should use the performance numbers for the purpose of selecting the appropriate performance tier for their needs.

Similarly, read and write throughput is based on a 256 kilobyte (KB) I/O fiber channel, and all tiers are built with the goal of achieving 99.9999% uptime; 100% uptime guarantees are available for HyperSwap configurations installed by IBM Lab Services.

Prices are charged on TB of drive capacity, not TB of capacity used. Using data compression on the storage devices can effectively provide further savings on a per TB basis.

Conclusions

Not all data can move to the cloud, but data center managers may not have the option to make huge investments and tie up cash in storage hardware and on-site storage. IBM Storage as a Service provides the flexibility of OpEx payments and the scalability of the cloud for on-site data center implementations. Any data center manager looking to expand, upgrade, or replace existing storage should explore IBM STaaS solutions as an option for their local and cloud-hybrid data center needs.

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