IBM unveils new Shark and midrange array

IBM on Tuesday unveiled two new enterprise-class storage arrays, one aimed at the high end and one at midrange environments but both with compatible software that allows the boxes to be managed through a single interface and data to be replicated between them.

The TotalStorage DS8000 is IBM's next generation of its high-end Enterprise Storage Server, also known as Shark, but with up to six times the performance and more than three times the capacity at 192TB. The refrigerator-size array also comes with 256GB of cache memory and 128 Fibre Channel or Ficon ports.

The TotalStorage DS6000 array is a rack-mountable, 3U-high unit that scales from 580GB to 67.2TB. It comes with a 4GB cache and 16 Fibre Channel or Ficon ports. Starting at US$97,000, the DS6000 is IBM's lowest-cost midrange product to date. A two-processor, 250GTB model of the DS8000 starts at US$134,000 retail.

Both boxes can be used as primary storage for IBM zSeries and iSeries mainframe computers as well as Unix, Linux and Wintel servers. The DS8000 can be upgraded in the field from two to four processors.

For the first time, IBM is also using its server processors for storage, which cut its time to market in half. While the DS8000 uses the P-Series processor, the DS6000 uses an IBM Power PC processor.

IBM also increased the industry-standard warranty on the arrays from three years to four years. IBM said that over the next year, it expects to make the DS8000 expandable to eight processors and 512GB of cache, and will also offer a mix of Fibre Channel and cheaper Advanced Technology Attachment disks.

Users at a press event here said they were impressed by the increase in performance and the ability to use a single management platform across all of IBM's storage products.

"It's easy to talk about the new stuff, but when you've got an existing infrastructure, you've got to have something that blends into that," said Bob Venable, manager of enterprise systems at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

Venable and several other users also liked the idea that they could carve up the DS8000 into two systems that could handle separate workloads. IBM said that over the next year, it would expand that capability to carve up the DS8000 into multiple systems, not just two.

Tony Asaro, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, gave IBM high marks for the new disk arrays for compatibility, the four-year warranty and the use of high-end IBM server and PC microprocessors.

"This is a great product family for the storage-area network," Asaro said.

But he added that IBM still needs to address the network-attached storage and content-addressed storage markets, as have its two chief competitors, EMC and Hitachi Data Systems.

"And they're IBM. Why don't they have disk-to-disk backup?" Asaro said.

The DS8000 also has logical partitioning, which allows users to split the box into two systems that can run completely different operations. Both arrays use an internally switched architecture instead of Fibre Channel arbitrated loop, which brings IBM up to speed with similar boxes from competitors such as Hitachi and EMC.

Dale Collier, senior vice president of technology at Regions Financial Corp., said he liked the compatibility between the DS8000 and DS6000 and is considering purchasing both to replicate between his main data center and a secondary one.

Regions Financial has an infrastructure that includes IBM mainframes and Shark arrays, as well as EMC's high-end Symmetrix arrays.

"Today, we're dealing with Sungard for disaster recovery, and at best, that's a 24-hour (recovery time objective)," Collier said. By replicating between the DS8000 and DS6000 over the 90 miles between data centers, he could recover data in seconds, he said.

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