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IBM's bailed out of the server market - will they dump Storwize next?

Whither IBM storage now, post X86 server divestment?

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January's not even ended yet and already we have an interesting technology market happening; IBM’s withdrawal from the x86 server market does lead to a number of questions.

Not only the future of IBM is under the spotlight, but also what IBM execs feel the future of the market is. Could this be yet another sector they withdraw from only to regret it, as they did with the network market where Cisco now dominates?

IBM’s piecemeal withdrawal from the hardware market – a retreat to the highlands of the legacy enterprise market – will lead to questions across the board as to what the future is for any IBM hardware. I am not sure of the market acceptance of their converged compute/network/storage strategy in the form of PureSystems or their me-too ‘Block’ offering but surely this is dead now.

Lenovo may continue to make the x86 components for IBM but the key question is how committed are IBM to keeping this going? IBM appear to have completely ceded this space to their competitors; personally, I’m not convinced by most of the converged offerings or their promised value, but to completely cede a market to the competition seems like a rash move.

How does this impact IBM storage?

The heart of IBM’s Storwize product set is x86-based servers; SVC in particular was ‘just’ an IBM server. IBM were one of the first companies who really leveraged the idea of the server as storage; Shark is, and was, simply a pair of RS/6000 or pSeries boxes. This has allowed them to utilise and share R&D across divisions, being something which should have been an advantage and enabled them to do some clever stuff; they demonstrated some of this stuff, yet never delivered it to market.

Now there is no reason for them to simply source the servers from others, the same as almost every other storage company in the world, and this moves the Storwize product set firmly into the realms of software (which is where it was anyway, in my view). But will IBM formally move Storwize into the software-only product space?

There is a part of me which really feels that this is inevitable. It may come as a reaction to a move by a competitor or it may be as a move to enable a V7000 to run as a cloud appliance. Either way, it may end up being the only way that IBM can maintain any kind of foothold in the storage market.

No, I haven’t forgotten XIV or IBM’s Flash offerings. XIV is a solid Tier 1.5 offering but it is also a collection of servers. XIV’s issue is really scalability and simply putting larger drives in is just reducing the IOP density. The flash offering is as good as many and if you want raw performance without features, it is worth considering.

IBM’s GSS could be built into something which scales and with many of the ‘features’ of XIV. And in a software only IBM Storage strategy; it could develop into a solid product if some of the dependency on specific disk controllers could be relaxed. Yet the question has to be whether IBM has time.

And yet without either a scalable NAS or Object store; IBM have some real problems. None of which are are really hardware problems but moving away from building your base platform probably makes none of them easier to solve.

Or perhaps if they concentrate on software and services... ®

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