IBM bundles storage hardware for biotech

IBM released three bundles of storage networking products Monday aimed at helping researchers combat the exponential growth of biotech data.

The combinations of pre-existing disk drives, tape storage, and servers have been tested to ensure interoperability, and have been designed to gather scientific data into a repository that can be accessed by disparate members of a research team, said Kathy Smith, vice president for storage solutions with IBM's storage systems group, at the Drug Discovery Technology World Congress conference here.

"We've researched what biotech and pharmaceutical companies need: data anytime, anywhere; storage that can scale as the company grows; and worldwide collaboration. Our pretested offerings will help companies deal with the explosion of data associated with gene sequencing and gene mapping techniques," said Smith.

A single gene sequencing process can create about 300T bytes of data, and companies need to find a way to deal with that, she said. And all biotech companies working on drug discovery efforts need to store data that can be readily accessible via the Internet, housed in network-attached storage (NAS) devices with slower response times, or archived.

"This is where storage is growing the fastest, the life sciences and medical imaging markets," said Steve Kenniston, senior analyst with The Enterprise Storage Group Inc. in Milford, Massachusetts.

Storage customers are also looking for value in this era of shrinking technology budgets, trying to get the most they can for the money allotted, he said. As a result, they will be interested in packaged, integrated products that can eliminate the cost of mixing and matching products, then having to integrate them, he said.

IBM designed bundles for three sizes of research groups. Small groups will be shown a combination including the IBM TotalStorage FASt500 midrange disk for sharing data between servers, the IBM TotalStorage Linear Tape Open (LTO) midrange tape storage device for backup and archiving, and an IBM eServer p630 running IBM's flavor of Unix, AIX.

Medium-size research groups will look at a package including the FASt500 midrange disk, the TotalStorage LTO, and an IBM eServer pSeries, and add IBM's TotalStorage NAS 300G for sharing data across a storage area network.

The package for enterprise companies includes everything in the midrange package, but adds a TotalStorage NAS 300 for exchanging files around a departmental network, an IBM eServer xSeries, and a TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server (ESS), also known as "Shark." The TotalStorage ESS family includes the recently announced ESS 800.

IBM's midrange products are on a par with those from EMC Corp. and Hitachi Data Systems Corp., but it has had more difficulty matching the other two companies in the high-end enterprise storage market, Kenniston said.

IBM will also encourage research organizations to use its DB2 database software, and server management software from its Tivoli Systems Inc. subsidiary, but purchasers won't be required to use that software in order to use the storage bundles. Organizations can mix and match products, but will be responsible for making sure another vendor's products interoperate with IBM's, Smith said.

Prices for the packages are not set in stone, Smith said. Enterprise customers will pay no more than US$1.2 million, a price which doesn't include DB2 and Tivoli software or consulting services, she said. The middle tier customer should expect to pay less than $200,000, and the smaller company less than $80,000, she said.

All the packages are available worldwide as of Monday.

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