IBM storage chief prepares for expansion

Andrew Monshaw, general manager of IBM’s Storage Systems and Technology Group, discussed the company’s storage plans, the state of virtualization technology, the future of tape storage, and Microsoft Corp.’s venture into the storage business in an interview with Computerworld last week.

What’s changed from when you began this job a year ago?

Our vision on information on demand is resonating. The strategy is working and [is being] validated by customers. [Also], virtualization is real this year. We’re adding four to five customers a day on our storage virtualization offering, [SAN Volume Controller]. Five years ago, we thought people would sell virtualization. What’s turned out is you sell the benefits of virtualization. It’s a subtle difference, but from a business model [point of view], it’s a big difference.

How many SAN Volume Controller customers are there today?

We have about 1,600 customers.

How is the virtualization technology being used?

Almost every customer uses it for [data] migration and uses it for utilization improvements. Interestingly, a high percentage of customers don’t even know how much storage they have in their enterprise. Let’s just start there. So a lot of this is geared around getting control of their infrastructure and then utilizing it.

This year has been the year of validation. NetApp renamed everything “V-Series.” EMC came out and said, “We were just kidding, virtualization is important, and we’re going to try to get this Invista thing out the door.” So it’s been validated by our competitors.

Are midrange systems cannibalizing your high-end systems sales?

I don’t see cannibalization. I see demand for both areas. Another way to think about that is, could robust, clustered midrange systems be a movement in the future? Very possibly. But there will be requirements for large mainframe systems and requirements for midrange systems.

Are disk storage systems eating into tape system sales?

We’ve probably had our best tape [sales] year in years. Innovations will continue to drive tape going forward. The key is customers have to save a lot of this data. There’s a lot of compliance regulations driving this. There are tons and tons of images.

Are you considering reselling Decru’s DataFort encryption appliance technology through your reseller partnership with Network Appliance?

We are evaluating this all the time. Our partnership with NetApp is off to a great start. We’re having ongoing discussions about how to leverage each other’s technology all the time.

How has Microsoft’s expansion into storage affected your plans?

We’re keeping an eye on this space. It’s clearly a vendor we need to continue to partner with. It’s clear they’re more active in the storage community, but it’s not really clear where they’re going yet. We’re certainly not dismissing them. When Microsoft puts their mind to something, they get it done.

What role do acquisitions play in IBM’s 2006 storage product road map?

We did the NetApp agreement and the Aperi thing. Now it’s time to get into the OEM alliance and acquisition space.

Would NetApp be a potential purchase for you?

I’m not going to comment on that.

What is the state of the Aperi open-source storage management platform effort?

There’s a lot of interest. A bunch of us get it, and a few people don’t get it. I think enough pressure in the system will force them to look at it from the customer’s point of view.

When do you expect to see some product from this?

By the middle of next year, we should be making some good progress. The board will define the code by the middle of next year that’s been donated. Then we’ll be off to the races.

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