IBM creates on-demand storage

IBM Corp. announced today that it would offer latent storage capacity in its Shark enterprise storage servers, Magstar tape libraries and virtual tape servers to meet the demands of rapidly growing Internet businesses.

With Shark servers, customers will be able to access up to 980GB of additional storage within seconds should their demands require it, without the need to pay for the capacity until it goes into use. Tape volume cache capacity will offer up to an additional 432GB of latent storage space.

IBM said it views this as a cost-containment method for businesses that may not be able to afford major storage purchases or to reliably predict future capacity needs.

Ivar Chhina, president and chief operating officer of San Jose, Calif. medical record retrieval company ChartOne Inc., plans on tapping the additional capacity as part of a storage outsourcing deal with IBM.

“For us, it’s a tremendous solution,” he said. “It’s not up-front capital. It’s variable cost capital. As I get money from my customers, I can pay for storage.”

ChartOne plans to create digital images of hospital records that can then be stored and accessed by medical professionals via thin clients.

“It’s just a huge data need, and we’ll need something that can scale quickly,” Chhina said.

William Hurley, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, called on-demand storage “a growing concern across the business spectrum.”

Steve Duplessie, a senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group in Milford, Mass., said on-demand capacity is becoming a standard in the storage world, noting that Hewlett-Packard Co. made a similar move last year.

“It’s a relatively recent phenomenon,” he said. “You used to be able to wait 60 days for your stuff to arrive and then plug in and play with it. Now you can’t wait 60 minutes.” He said the high information load of the New Economy has caused instant storage crises for companies that find themselves deluged with new data.