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IBM Moves into the Container-Native Storage Lane

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Data storage stands at an odd crossroads today. From a technological perspective, storage vendors continue to deliver the goods in terms of solutions becoming increasingly speedy, capacious, and flexible. That is vital since modern businesses are creating and managing information in volumes that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

At the same time, most storage media and systems have become thoroughly commoditized, driving prices and margins ever downward and bleeding dry many once-stalwart vendors. There are ways out of this blind alleyway, but they typically require proactive development and strategic efforts. The new Spectrum Fusion and updated Elastic Storage Systems announced last week by IBM offer insights into how one vendor is coping with these challenges.

IBM latest storage offerings

IBM’s announcement focused on entirely new and updated storage solutions. First, the company introduced Spectrum Fusion, a container-native software-defined storage (SDS) offering that integrates IBM’s general parallel file system, data discovery, and modern data protection technology into a single software solution to simplify accessing and securing information assets wherever they reside – within the data center, at the edge and across hybrid cloud environments.

When it comes to market later this year, IBM Spectrum Fusion will be available as a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) system that integrates compute, storage and networking. It will include Red Hat OpenShift to enable organizations to support environments for both containers and virtual machines, and provide software-defined storage functions for cloud, edge, containerized data assets and IT infrastructures. Additionally, IBM plans to release an SDS-only version of IBM Spectrum Fusion in early 2022.

The company also introduced updates to its IBM Elastic Storage System (ESS) family of scalable, easy-to-deploy high-performance solutions. The revamped ESS 5000 now delivers 10% greater storage capacity than prior generation systems, for a maximum total of 15.2PB. The new all-flash ESS 3200 doubles the read performance of its predecessor to 80 GB/second per node and also supports up to 8 InfiniBand HDR-200 or Ethernet-100 ports for high throughput and low latency. The ES3200 can support up to 367TB of capacity per 2U node.

Both the ESS 3200 and ESS 5000 feature system software and support for Red Hat OpenShift and Kubernetes Container Storage Interface (CSI), CSI snapshots and clones, Red Hat Ansible (for automated container deployment), Windows, Linux and bare-metal environments. The systems come with IBM Spectrum Scale built-in. The ESS 3200 and ESS 5000 also work with IBM Cloud Pak for Data, the company’s platform of integrated data and AI services, for integration with IBM Watson Knowledge Catalog (WKC) and Db2.

The value of practical storage innovations

What do these new and enhanced solutions mean for IBM customers? Let’s consider Spectrum Fusion first and the way it practically addresses both current and future business challenges.

At the same time, companies are adopting hybrid cloud solutions and services, they are also planning to add or increase end-of-network assets to their IT infrastructures. That may sound simple on paper but as IBM Storage GM Denis Keneally notes, “It starts with building a foundational data layer, a containerized information architecture and the right storage infrastructure.”

The integration of Red Hat OpenShift in IBM Spectrum Fusion is designed to support workloads utilizing containers and virtual machines, and to enable effective data management across the hybrid cloud, data center, edge, and containerized environments. The new solution’s incorporation of a fully containerized version of IBM’s general parallel file system, data discovery, and modern data protection software should significantly ease data discovery, data resilience, and storage tiering processes.

In contrast to conventional processes where making duplicate data copies is required to move application workloads, Spectrum Fusion enables customers to create and utilize single copies of data by storing them in a local cache where they can be easily accessed. That eliminates the clutter of multiple redundant copies of data, simplifying information management, reducing storage CAPEX and OPEX, and streamlining analytics and AI processes. Single copies of data can also help bolster compliance functions, a vital point for businesses that need to follow regulatory frameworks like HIPPA and GDPR, and also help reduce security exposures.

The IBM ESS 3200 and 5000 solutions’ performance and capacity enhancements should appeal to customers facing continually growing data asset challenges. Plus, the ESS 3200 and 5000’s containerized system software, support for numerous OS and virtual machine technologies and integration of key IBM Cloud Pak and Watson platforms make them highly flexible solutions for a variety of business computing scenarios.

Final analysis

In essence, IBM’s new Spectrum Fusion and the updated ESS 3200 and ESS 5000 solutions will be useful for modern businesses’ current and future needs. Given their built-in hardware and software capabilities and optional features, IBM’s offerings are likely to generate immediate interest among large-scale retailers and manufacturers (including pharma and biochem), and companies in compliance-sensitive sectors, including healthcare and financial services. Over time, however, IBM Spectrum Fusion and ESS 3200 and ESS 5000 should gain ground with a much wider audience of enterprise organizations.