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IBM advances in storage arms race

TotalStorage DS6000 and DS8000

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If there is one certainty today in the wonderful world of Information Technology it is that competition between vendors in almost all areas is still fierce. This is especially so in the area of storage platforms where a relatively small number of vendors dominate, at least in a marketing sense, the market. Last week witnessed IBM making bold claims for its latest storage platforms, the IBM TotalStorage DS6000 and DS8000, built using IBM's highly regarded Power processors.

The TotalStorage DS6000 is delivered in a 3u form factor that may be mounted in standard 19" racks. Described by IBM as "the ultra-dense Enterprise breakthrough", the platform's storage capacity starts at 580GB and scales up to just over 67 Terabytes and can be connected to zSeries, iSeries, UNIX (including AIX, HP-UX and Solaris), Linux and Intel systems.

The DS6000 takes a modular approach to storage allowing customers to start small and grow as and when required with no performance drawbacks. In essence disk capacity may be added at any time, with each 3u enclosure capable of taking up to 16 hard disk drives. It is interesting to note that IBM claims the DS6000 can scale to twice the capacity of EMC's DMX800 at around half the price and in a fraction of the physical space.

The DS6000 is designed to be user installable and is supplied with IBM TotalStorage DS Manager software to help make the administration of the system relatively straightforward. Overall this platform has the potential to operate in many scenarios, including as primary storage in mid-scale environments as well as a low cost secondary storage/remote storage using its copy service capabilities.

The TotalStorage DS8000 is designed with Enterprise scalability, high performance and high availability very much in mind. The platform has been built on top of IBM's latest Power5 microprocessors and makes use of IBM's Virtualisation Engine components. The DS8000 will be initially shipped in either dual two processor or dual four processor configurations and has an architecture capable of addressing in excess of 96 Petabytes of data.

It should be noted that the Power5 processors at the heart of the DS8000 were designed, from the start, to operate in storage architectures. Indeed, selected models in the DS8000 range can make use of IBM Logical Partitioning (LPAR) technology, well known in the server space, to allow storage resources to be separated into distinct logical storage systems, each of which may operate completely independently.

The DS8000 also employs a new caching technology developed by IBM Research called Adaptive Replacement Cache (ARC). ARC dynamically optimises storage system performance for both sequential and randomly accessed workloads thereby delivering greater throughput and faster response times in many environments.

Beyond these matters, the design of the DS8000 makes it possible for IBM to consider running 'applications' in the storage platform itself. It is probable that said applications would initially focus on storage management, with IBM SVC and SFS looking to be likely candidates. It is worthwhile recognising that the two new storage platforms announced by IBM are very closely related. The platforms even share an enormous amount of micro code and utilise a common operating environment making it possible to deploy the two platforms together to be used as part of a single business continuity solution using common remote mirroring capabilities.

These new platforms position IBM strongly in the ongoing storage arms race and indicate the company's strong commitment to build very good storage solutions. Tom Hawk of IBM Storage Group stated: "We want to take back number 1 spot in storage." IBM is clearly gunning for both EMC and HDS with these new platforms and the design of the architectures and use of Power technology provides Big Blue with great scope, both up and down scale, in where it could go next with storage offerings.

Copyright © 2004, IT-Analysis.com

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