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IBM unchains new storage monsters to spook upstart hybrids

What you need to know from Big Blue's latest info dump

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IBM has boosted its top-end storage array performance with a new processor - and is upgrading its XIV and Storwize v7000 systems - in its fourth major enterprise systems announcement this year.

El Reg's Timothy Prickett Morgan covered the POWER7+ developments yesterday. Here Vulture Central's storage desk looks at Big Blue's announcements on the…

  • DS8870 monolithic array
  • TS7700 virtual tape library (VTL)
  • Technical Computing for Big Data
  • SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center 5.1
  • XIV Storage System Gen 3
  • Storwize V7000

Taking these from the top, the DS8870 is a new version of IBM's high-end monolithic storage array with POWER7 controllers that delivers three times more performance than the current DS8800, a useful jump. These controllers can have up to 16 cores and a huge 1TB of usable system cache, 160 per cent more than before. The DS8870 can also support self-encrypting drives for added security.

The DS8800s support EasyTier and its automated tiering of data between different classes of storage drives, including SSDs. IBM is taking this further and states [PDF]:

IBM intends to deliver advanced Easy Tier capabilities in the IBM DS8000 series, designed to leverage direct-attached, solid- state storage on selected IBM AIX and Linux servers. Easy Tier will manage the solid-state storage as a large and low latency cache for the “hottest” data while preserving advanced disk system functions, such as RAID protection and remote mirroring. Also, Easy Tier will use an application-aware storage application programming interface (API) to enable servers to communicate with storage so storage can become aware of application workload needs and use that to optimise data placement.

Thus IBM is following EMC, NetApp and HP in feeding server flash caches with data from its arrays. We note, by the way, that Big Blue has a newer POWER7+ processor, and so we can expect another performance-boosting refresh of the DS8000 line in due course. There's a lot of life in this ol' gal yet.

Turning to IBM's VTL, the TS7700 gets a performance boost too, and it can now support 4 million logical volumes, aka tape cartridges, that's twice as many as before. Six TS7700s can be connected in a grid. They can encrypt the data they write using dedicated hardware, and encrypt data sent between grid members.

IBM has announced a Technical Computing for Big Data offering that twins GPFS with its Platform Symphony software to help customers undertake complex analytics problems. Its InfoSphere BigInsights software can work with Platform Symphony to make this happen, IBM says, faster and cheaper.

SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center 5.1 is a development of IBM's VSC product. This is a storage virtualisation and management platform, based on IBM's SAN Volume Controller, with which "physical disk capacity from multiple arrays is pooled together and consumed one virtual slice at a time driving up utilisation. Virtual volumes are mobile from tier-to-tier, vendor-to-vendor, and site-to-site [and] storage services remain common even across a disk array vendor change".

VSC 5.1 is a pay-as-you-go service with access to:

  • SAN Volume Controller v6.4 core capabilities, such as external virtualisation, EasyTier and thin provisioning
  • Tivoli Storage Productivity Center v5.1 with Storage Analytics Engine, for automated tiering, and provisioning automation
  • FlashCopy Manager v3.2 with Global Metro Mirror integration

IBM calls this "a unique storage infrastructure optimisation solution [with] simplified packaging and cloud-friendly pricing".

The XIV Storage System Gen 3 array gets an OpenStack Nova-volume driver. OpenStack is an open-source platform that enables customers to deploy private and public clouds. IBM Research contributed the Nova-volume and Cinder drivers to OpenStack. The Nova-volume driver enables XIV arrays to participate in OpenStack deployments with the Nova-volume driver helping automate storage provisioning and volume management. IBM says:

  • XIV's Multi-System Manager server reduces operational complexity with integrated management for large and multi-site XIV deployments
  • Mobile Dashboard enhancements further simplify management of XIV environments
  • There is XIV GUI support for the Japanese language.

The Storwize V7000 got real-time compression and four-way clustering in June. IBM says the system now has:

  • Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) connectivity
  • Upgradability of V7000 block systems to Storwize V7000 Unified systems with dual file and block access
  • Integrated authentication server
  • OpenStack Nova-volume driver

So both Storwize V7000 and XIV arrays can be used in OpenStack deployments. IBM Research is doing further development in the OpenStack area by building on its driver platform.

The XIV and V7000 developments look routine. The DS8000 stuff looks more significant with a substantial performance boost, headroom for more developments with the POWER7+ processor, and the extension of EasyTier to AIX and Linux server caches. Big Blue has just bought flash storage supplier TMS; the coming insertion of TMS's flash server cards and Fibre Channel-connected shared RamSan flash arrays into IBM's storage product stack gives the company lots of scope for future announcements.

Its customers and partners can be confident that IBM is not ceding any storage ground to mainstream competitors, such as EMC, nor the vigorous bevy of flash and hybrid flash-disk storage array startups jockeying for their attention. ®

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