It’s time for flash in data centres: IBM

LAS VEGAS — At IBM’s Edge conference here Big Blue executives made the case that flash is no longer a pricy storage alternative just for the most demanding, compute intensive applications.

A tipping point is here, IBM officials said Monday, because flash is now a more affordable option for more data centres.

There were a number of new product announcements on day one of the conference, but prominent among them was the IBM FlashSystem family of all-flash storage appliances. It’s part of what IBM sees as a new emerging data centre architecture that’s able to handle the demands modern IT is facing around unstructured data and continual demands for performance improvement.

“Today’s data centres were not designed or built for this world,” said Stephen Leonard, VP worldwide sales for IBM’s systems and technology group, noting a shift from making more productive use of structured data from predictable back-office processes to a world that’s unpredictable and unstructured fueling ever increasing data centre complexity.

(Photo by Jeff Jedras, ITWC)

IBM’s answer is “smarter computing,” a different type of computing model based on three key principles: designed for data, built on a software-defined environment, and open and collaborative with other vendors. And flash is a key part of the vision.

“We believe flash storage is now reaching a tipping point were for most or all of your storage requirements, flash is a viable and affordable alternative to spinning disk,” said Leonard.

The economics around flash have changed concurred Ambuj Goyal, general manager of IBM’s system storage and networking group. When people shift from thinking about dollar per gigabyte to dollar per workload, the economics change dramatically, he said. Flash allows for much more capacity in a smaller footprint, leading to a host of savings. It also enables performance improvements, both on the workloads shifted to flash and those remaining on the less strained legacy infrastructure.

“It’s not just flash chips; it’s behind a software layer that does management so it slides into your data centre without changing procedures,” said Goyal.

While there’s been much talk of flash here, IBM said it remains committed to tape and spinning disk storage as well. A number of other storage announcements were made at the conference, including higher capacity Storewize and XIV systems, improvements to its automated tiering technology, and IBM Linear Tape File System Enterprise Edition which allows businesses to use tape storage as is own storage tier.

IBM [NYSE: IBM] will continue to invest in the breadth of its portfolio said Sebastian Krause, vice-president of global storage sales for IBM’s systems and technology group.

“It’s a huge advantage for us to have this huge portfolio that is the broadest in the industry, and it helps us to provide solutions to our clients,” said Krause.

IBM’s storage strategy has four legs, said Krause. The first leg is the business critical segment of customers, where storage downtime has a pricy economic impact. The second is customers that want to deploy storage quickly with an immediate return on investment. The third is data intensive solutions such as data protection and archiving. And the fourth is flash. Krause said IBM is investing in solutions to meet each of these client use cases.

Flash isn’t limited to the enterprise, said Krause. Smaller companies can adopt new technology more quickly, and need the technological edge to compete. And prices can be lower than you may think, with a 2TB array in a 1U enclosure the smallest size that’s available.

If a customer has no experience with flash and is looking to build a use case, Krause recommends they begin with identifying an app that is running slowly based on the database underneath or the I/O of the system, and converting it to flash.

“Flash has an immediate impact without rewriting anything in the app. It’s a very neat use case that can be demonstrated fast,” said Krause.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
As an assistant editor at IT World Canada, Jeff Jedras contributes primarily to CDN and, covering the reseller channel and the small and medium-sized business space.

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