Cost-savings theme pervades IBM storage news

IBM Storage Insights is a new AI and cloud-based storage management platform that’s designed to give users a fast view of storage capacity and performance as well as make tiering recommendations to help cut storage cost.

A flurry of storage announcements from IBM share a common theme: Helping customers achieve greater efficiency and wring cost savings from their multitier, multi-cloud storage environments.

Anchoring the news is IBM Storage Insights, a new AI and cloud-based storage management platform that’s designed to give users a fast view of storage capacity and performance, as well as make tiering recommendations to help cut storage costs. A single dashboard shows the status of block storage and captures trend information.

“Imagine you have an up-to-the-second event feed where you can see everything happening, not just on one of your arrays but across your entire environment,” said Sam Werner, vice president of offering management for IBM’s software-defined infrastructure (SDI) and storage software.

Storage Insights parses storage health information to help identify less-than-optimal configurations. IBM uses machine learning to dissect usage and performance data that’s amassed from storage gear deployed by its customers. Analyzing the data reveals application and workload patterns, which inform best practices that customers can reference to optimize their own gear.

“We have data growing at an exponential rate. In order for an administrator to be able to manage more and more data, we must be more proactive, we must use AI capabilities underneath to help with that and to automate a lot of these processes,” Werner said.

To make interactions with IBM support go more smoothly, Storage Insights includes the ability to open a ticket, automatically upload diagnostic data and share configuration data. “IBM support has the exact same view as the infrastructure team into what’s going on in the infrastructure,” Werner said.

Storage Insights is delivered as a service from IBM Cloud at no charge for users of IBM block storage. Optionally, customers can upgrade to Storage Insights Pro, a subscription that provides more detailed information and more historic data, plus capabilities such as department-level reporting.

New storage tools and features

On the feature front, the big story from IBM is deduplication.

IBM is offering data deduplication capabilities for the first time on its Storwize all-flash and hybrid storage, SAN Volume Controller, all-flash FlashSystem V9000, and VersaStack converged infrastructure. IBM already supported deduplication on its FlashSystem A9000. Deduplication joins data-reduction functions that IBM already offers, including compression, thin provisioning, compaction and SCSI unmap.

For enterprises with heterogenous storage, IBM’s Spectrum Virtualize software extends the dedupe capabilities to the more than 440 external storage systems that Spectrum Virtualize supports. “If you’d like to do data deduplication on an old EMC VMX, you can do that with IBM. If you want to do it on an old EqualLogic box from Dell, you can do that, too,” said Eric Herzog, CMO and vice president of global channel sales for IBM storage systems and software-defined storage.

IBM asserts that its deduplication capabilities can achieve up to a five-to-one data reduction. In turn, the need for less storage capacity yields significant cost savings, IBM says: Over a three-year period, a company can reduce its storage management and opex costs by $2.8 million and capex costs by as much as $600,000 when it uses deduplication in combination with other data reduction functions. Those numbers are based on a certain configuration – an all-flash Storwize V7000F array with 700TB usable configuration and 7.68TB flash drives.

IBM also detailed what it calls “peace of mind guarantees” to help enterprises feel better about their storage investments. A controller-upgrade program gives buyers of certain Storwize, FlashSystem and VersaStack systems the option to upgrade the controllers in these arrays after three years for the cost of ongoing hardware and software maintenance. An availability guarantee offers 100% data availability protection for systems using IBM HyperSwap and deployed by IBM Lab Services.

Software upgrades benefit disaster recovery in the cloud

IBM Spectrum Virtualize provides software-defined storage capabilities across various platforms, including IBM’s Storwize family, SVC, FlashSystem V9000 and most of its VersaStack systems. Last December, IBM unveiled Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud, which can be deployed on public cloud Infrastructure to create virtualized, cloud block storage for applications that are running in the public cloud.

Among the latest round of storage enhancements is a new version of Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud. The new version doubles its scalability (from a maximum of four nodes to eight) to bring parity between the on-premises and cloud versions of the software. Throughput has been boosted 20%, and IBM significantly simplified the installation process, Warner said.

Having a consistent software environment on-premises and in the cloud can simplify management, make it easier to migrate applications to the cloud and speed deployment of disaster recovery (DR) solutions. For DR, in particular, Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud makes it practicable to mirror on-premises clusters to the public cloud, Werner said. 

“In the event of a disaster, you can immediately spin up your infrastructure in the cloud, on top of the same storage model that you’re used to managing on-prem.”

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