IBM is a massive and global services, software, and infrastructure business that, until the last 5 years or so, has been primarily focusing on the former two components. More recently on the storage side, however, IBM purchased XIV and Storwize (for compression), and developed the Storwize V7000 and SAN Volume Controller (SVC) organically through internal efforts. However, all three lines of business (XIV, Storwize V7000, and SVC) have largely been operating independently. Combine this with the DS series and N-series products and, why not, SONAS, and you’ve got a powerhouse portfolio. That said, give three different resellers the same specifications and you will likely get three different solutions back from the RFP.

In stark contrast, with its new entrant to the converged infrastructure market in April, IBM put together a simple, understandable and, by the way, standout solution in PureSystems, delivering networking, systems, management and storage – with the Storwize V7000 – all in one preconfigured solution. In addition, it extended XIV’s management GUI toTivoliStorageProductivityCenter, which has already been rolled out to SVC, Storwize V7000 and DS8000, unifying the portfolio from a management perspective. Info-Tech expects that IBM will continue this alignment and focus into its larger portfolio of storage products already mentioned, in addition to increased coordination with its already strong software and services (think Big Data and analytics).

At this week’s first annual IBM Edge Storage Conference in Orlando, IBM began this process by communicating three key tenets of its Smarter Storage vision: efficient by design, self-optimizing and cloud agile.

On the efficiency side, and arguably the most exciting announcement, was IBM’s Real-Time Compression (RTC), the ability to compress live production data (typically the most expensive storage) on the Storwize V7000 and SVC with no performance degradation. Actually, on some high I/O workloads, RTC was actually faster. While, Real Time Compression was initially made available as an appliance connected to primary NAS devices (think N-series), it will now be available as a software license on the SVC and Storwize V7000 handling block only, with file coming soon. Interestingly, IBM suggests that this be deployed instead of thin provisioning, arguing that RTC provides you with a lot more storage utilization.

In terms of optimization, IBM outlined new capabilities of Easy Tier, its storage auto-tiering solution that intelligently moves data between tiers of disk based on activity and policy. First, it plans to extend Easy Tier down to the servers, where it will work with industry standard flash PCIe cards (fusionIO, intel, LSI, etc.); IBM expressed no plans to develop its own proprietary cards. In addition, IBM spoke about its new Ultra SSD Drawer with claims of 650,000 IOPS and 4.6 GB/s in a single U of rack space using 12TB of MLC flash.

Cloud agility for now was all about the speed to deployment, and PureSystems were cited as a great example of this agile notion, and what is intended to be a solution to simplify internal cloud deployment, with support for multiple hypervisors (VMware, Hyper-V, KVM and PowerVM), multiple OSs (AIX, IBM I, Windows and Linux), and multiple architectures (Power7 and/or Intel x86). Add to this the ability to manage competitors’ storage through Storwize V7000 and integration of IBM SmartCloud Entry and you have a rather compelling internal cloud deployment enabler.

Overall, IBM Edge 2012 was a great inaugural storage event that appears to be an indication that IBM will be investing more in storage. For now, IBM’s portfolio rallies around three concepts: efficiency, optimization and cloud agility. However, it will be very interesting to see how branding and positioning of the individual components of IBM’s storage portfolio evolve over the next year to, hopefully, become clearly delineated and integral components of a larger, and smarter, storage vision.

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