New Storwize systems with twice the capacity of earlier models are among products announced

IBM Corp. made a focused push into the software-defined storage (SDS) market at its Edge conference in Las Vegas this week, announcing several updates to existing products to include SDS capabilities and some new products, too.

The announcements follow IBM’s unveiling of its software defined storage strategy last week, making its patented Elastic Storage technology commercially available, the storage system used by Jeopardy-winning artificial intelligence Watson. The technology is designed to give quick access to vast amounts of unstructured and structured data (often referred to as big data) while also storing it in the most economical way possible.

In a live interview streamed from the conference by SiliconAngle, Steve Wojtowecz, IBM’s vice-president of storage & network management for software development, described the advantages an IT department could reap from SDS.

“Throw in an abstraction layer between the hardware devices and the applications that use it and now you’ve got software-defined,” he said. “So you can mix and match hardware, you can write the application to a single interface and take advantage of all those underlying physical resources.”

The updates from Edge are grouped under IBM’s Smarter Storage solutions line and include updates to the Storwize V7000 Unified and StorWize V7000. IBM’s virtualized storage systems for the enterprise now support up to twice the storage of the previous model. Plus IBM XIV Cloud Storage for Service Providers is updated with new features including multi-tenancy, with support for the creation of logical partitions. There’s also a new flash storage enclosure model, the DS8870, offering 3.5 times faster performance while requiring half the space and reducing energy consumption by 12 per cent, according to IBM.

The focus on the software-defined environment for the company comes after the sale of its x86 server division to business partner Lenovo announced in January. Lenovo paid US$2.3 billion in cash and stock for IBM’s System x, BladeCenter, and Flex System blade systems, and other blade server lines.

According to Rohit Mehra, vice-president of network infrastructure at analyst firm IDC, IBM’s blade portfolio was niche and a piece of that didn’t quite fit into the network puzzle for IT administrators running the data centre. Selling it to Lenovo shows IBM’s not interested in playing in the hardware stack, but is now focused on the software-defined environment, he says.

“They certainly want to be a part of that ecosystem for that software defined networking environment of the future and that includes networking,” he says. “Hardware or software, it doesn’t matter. There has to be a clearly spelt out strategy followed by a clear announcement of the tactical steps we are going to see.”

IBM’s Wojtowecz downplayed the importance of the Lenovo deal, saying Big Blue could tap Lenovo’s supply chain for its solutions and was more interested in focusing on providing access to data for its clients.

“Data is the new currency of the IT industry and we want to make sure we have control over where it goes and how we manage it and get analytics out of it,” he said. “Data is continuing to explode, customers can’t figure out why and they don’t want to throw anything away.”

Virtualization of storage – a requirement for running software defined storage – is the answer, Wojtowecz said. He gave an example of an enterprise moving just one terabyte of data and moving it off tier one storage and instead to tier two, saving $13 million over five years. “That’s a lot of dough,” he says.

Here’s more details of the new features IBM announced to its storage solutions line today at Edge:

  • IBM Storwize V7000 now has new clustering capabilities, real-time compression, and an active cloud engine. Each disk now stores up to 4 petabytes of data.
  • IBM XIV Cloud Storage for Service Providers is now available in a pay-per-use pricing model for business partners, which IBM says reduces the upfront cost by as much as 40 per cent. Multi-tenant support is now made possible by the addition of logical domains.
  • IBM TS4500 Tape Library can now back up three times more cloud data in the same footprint.
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