Smaller Boxes, Bigger Plans For IBM Storage

Vendor maps out four-year strategy that includes flexible partitioning and pricing
IBM's new four-year storage strategy, laid out last week, came with a few surprises. First, the talk was all about gee-whiz hardware and lower costs, not related services. And when Dan Colby, IBM's general manager of storage, pulled the sheet off what looked like one of IBM's old-style storage towers, it was actually a metal frame holding a system that's only the size of a couple of pizza boxes.

That smaller form-factor storage system--the IBM TotalStorage DS6000, with some high-end functionality and easier-to-install architecture--is part of IBM's effort to show that it's serious about competing in storage with EMC Corp. and Hitachi Data Systems. "We're committed to storage as a part of the end-to-end fabric of customer infrastructures," says Rich Lechner, IBM's VP of marketing for storage systems.

The system's bigger twin, the IBM TotalStorage DS8000, is based on the same architecture as the DS6000 and much of IBM's server line, but it is the newest high-end storage system from IBM for customers who want 96 terabytes of capacity. The systems will be available Dec. 3; pricing for both lines starts at $97,000 for 500 Gbytes of capacity. The vendor also plans usage-based pricing.

IBM promises lower total costs from its use of industry-standard components in its servers, a four-year warranty that includes software upgrades, and the ability for customers to double performance by themselves by upgrading from two to four processors.

 BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee needs storage flexibility, Bob Venable says.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee needs storage flexibility, Venable says.
What intrigues Bob Venable, manager of enterprise systems at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, is promised features in the DS6000 and the DS8000 that IBM calls Adaptive Replacement Cache and logical partitioning. Adaptive Replacement Cache could let customers increase the performance of the system for different forms of data access, while taking up less capacity with cache. Venable believes he could pitch the benefits of logical partitioning, which allows a single operating system to run multiple workloads as if each were alone, to his CFO. "We could give priority to business processes without any hard coding," he says.

"When payroll kicks off now, it gets priority on our servers, and we expect the same capability for storage in three months," Venable says. He expects storage systems flexible enough to respond to conditions as they occur. Currently, Venable and his staff manually line up resources ahead of time, and they can't change anything once that work is done.

The DS6000 includes such high-end options as letting customers add and pay for capacity as needed. The new system also includes automated visual alerts for component fixes so customers can do the work without calling in IBM. Finally, the midrange system comes with autonomic capabilities for preventing outages. The DS8000 should, with help from Tivoli SAN Volume Controller software, let users support multiple vendor systems from the same console. A dual four-way Power5 chip architecture generates six times the throughput of its Enterprise Storage Server 800 predecessor.

Logical partitioning in the DS8000 could let customers control multiple types of software, architectures, and departments or business units from a single storage-management console, says Tony Asaro, an analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group. Asaro also thinks having the same code behind both the DS6000 and the DS8000 gives IBM a great advantage in the market. "IBM will get the lower-cost systems out to market quicker than anyone else," he says, "because they have one team working across both platforms."

Venable at BlueCross BlueShield also loves competition in the storage market and says IBM's warranties--as much as its technology--could further shake things up.

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