IBM upgrades Shark storage system

IBM Corp. will release two new versions of its high-end storage system, code-named Shark, in August, making significant upgrades to the overall performance and capacity of the system, the company said Monday. The move will place it head-to-head with rival Hitachi Data Systems Corp. (HDS), according to an industry analyst.

The Model 800 and the beefier 800 Turbo will join the existing models in IBM’s TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server range. The systems will start shipping worldwide Aug. 16 with some of the company’s most advanced processor, disk drive and interconnect technology. Overall, the improved technology should boost the system’s performance by as much 2.5 times over previous Shark systems, said Jim Kelly, vice-president of marketing in IBM’s storage products division.

IBM’s new high-end system will go up against the Lightning 9900a V-Series storage server announced by HDS in May. IBM has made enough improvement with the Model 800 to place it on even ground against the widely-praised Lighting 9900a, said John McArthur, group vice-president of worldwide market research at analyst firm IDC.

“These systems will go head-to-head against each other,” McArthur said. “This will be a couple of giants going in and smacking each other around. I’m not placing bets on either one.”

Both IBM and HDS also compete against storage leader EMC Corp., which has not recently upgraded its high-end Symmetrix line. McArthur said he expects EMC to refresh the Symmetrix products soon, to better compete against the new systems from IBM and HDS.

IBM’s new systems will be the first in the Shark line to use the company’s copper-based processors, one of the keys to the improved performance, Kelly said. The Model 800 holds up to four of the processors, while the 800 Turbo will ship with six. The Model 800 was designed for customers that need to store less than 9T bytes of data, while the 800 Turbo was built to handle larger amounts of information.

The Shark systems can use 18G-byte, 36G-byte and 72G-byte drives running at 10,000 rpm (revolutions per minute) or 15,000 rpm, Kelly said.

The new Shark also comes with some of IBM’s Project eLiza technology for automated management of the hardware. This technology can notify administrators of potential problems with components such as power supplies or hard disks, and can improve the performance of the cache and I/O functions, for example.

A base configuration of the Model 800 costs close to US$400,000.

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