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Will IBM sideline XIV?

Yanai's baby under threat

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Mighty Moshe Yanai has left IBM for unknown reasons and regions unknown, with various bloggers suggesting his intensely competitive personality might have have something to do with it. That could leave the XIV product in a lurch.

The rub of this is the supposed overlap between the two high-end storage arrays: XIV and the DS8000. IBM says the XIV Storage System is a next-generation high-end open disk storage system. The DS8000 is a high-performance disk storage for business-critical enterprise workloads. Several commentators have said that the XIV is a Yanai-propelled cuckoo in IBM's nest, a poor product and possibly beyond repair. The amount of competitive criticism of XIV has been quite extraordinary, with EMC bloggers in particular having slammed the product.

Its total usable capacity of 161TB is criticised for being too small. Product features like multiple frame support are late in coming. We hear that it has less than 2,000 units out in the field and that its sales force competes with IBM's mainstream sales force and so on. A contrary view is that all this is so much FUD, that XIV customers love their product, that its data reliability is excellent, and that IBM sales people are successfully taking on and beating EMC and HP in competitive deals.

Whichever of these is right there is a chance now that the Israel-based XIV development team could find their product sidelined.

A well-informed member of the analyst community disagrees: "I think the chance of side-lining is quite small." He says IBM has steadily developed the XIX, adding 2TB drive support and asynchronous mirroring and a (SO)NAS head while also clearing away older and interfering products such as the DS4000 and DS6000.

He says: "IBM has gone so far [with XIV] it can't pull back," and "The analyst said: 'Whomever EMC criticises [means] that is probably a good product to look at.'"

Yes, the separate XIV sales force will probably get pulled back into mainstream IBM sales, but IBM has nothing to replace XIV with. That product takes it into customer situations where a DS8000 won't be acceptable because it can't scale so easily, is harder to manage, may be more expensive, and mainframe connectivity isn't an issue.

IBM has no XIV substitute, not having any technology similar to that of 3PAR, Atmos, Compellent or Pillar Data. Big Blue's field sales force like the product - they win sales with it, and units in the field are heading towards the 3,000 level. Customers love it too.

XIV will never have FICON (mainframe connectivity) and can't replace the DS8000, only overlapping its low-end. It's no threat to the DS8000. The analyst thinks development will continue, with things like FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) and flash memory being added, the latter possibly to the controllers.

In his view the XIV product and its development will survive Moshe Yanai's departure and develop a strong role alongside the DS8000 product line. Big Blue has adopted XIV and it's now a firm part of its product family. Sidelining is not on the roadmap. ®

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