IBM Storwize: New Innovations for Midmarket, Channel

NEW-PRODUCT NEWS: In a significant storage announcement, IBM also said it will introduce support for the industry standard Container Storage Interface in the second quarter.

Continual evolution is the foundational truth underlying tech industry chestnuts such as Moore’s Law, and it provides the subtext for innumerable marketing and promotional campaigns. In fact, it’s one of IT’s biggest selling points. But a valuable, if less-discussed, point to consider is the top-down nature of how this evolution usually proceeds.

Building new products costs lots of money, especially when it comes to business IT. So it’s no surprise that new solutions are initially designed according to the needs of large enterprises willing to pay a premium for the features, capabilities and benefits those solutions provide.

However, eventually once enterprise-specific technologies find their way into more affordable yet still powerful new offerings for smaller companies and the channel/business partners that serve them. This point is crystal clear in the additions IBM recently made to its Storwize V5000 storage family.

What Was Announced?

What is IBM adding to its Storwize V5000 portfolio? In short, two new flavors of high-performance storage designed/priced for small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs):

  • The Storwize V5010E and V5030E replace the prior gen V5010 and V5030. Both deliver significantly greater IOPs (I/Os per second) performance but cost 30% less than prior gen systems. The V5010E supports up to 4X more cache (16, 32, 64GB) and 2X better IOPS than the V5010, and scales to 12PB of capacity (up to 392 HDDs/SSDs). The V5030E supports compression and deduplication and more cache (32, 64GB), delivers 20% better IOPS and scales to 23PB of storage in a single system or 32PB with two-way clustering (up to 760 or 1,520 HDDs/SSDs).
  • The new all-flash Storwize V5100/V5100F offers significantly more features than the other new V5000 family members including end-to-end NVMe. Plus, it delivers significantly higher performance via IBM’s NVMe FlashCore storage modules, FibreChannel options (16Gbit/s FC/FC NVMe and 32Gbit/s FC/FC NVMe) and higher cache capacity (64-576GB per system or 128GB-1.15TB per cluster).

IBM noted that it is bundling its Spectrum Virtualize software the new V5000 offerings at no additional charge, meaning that customers can freely utilize management functions, including snapshots, encryption and storage virtualization, for 450+ IBM and non-IBM arrays. The company also added support for AWS to its Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud (which previously could only be used with IBM Cloud) and introduced a new “air gapping” function that allows snapshots of data to be isolated on public cloud platforms away from production environments.

Finally, IBM said it will introduce support for the industry standard Container Storage Interface (CSI) in the second quarter.

Why It Matters

This is interesting stuff. But do IBM’s updated and new Storwize offerings really qualify as anything but a typical product refresh?

Absolutely. First, though leading edge-computing systems tend to enjoy more time in the spotlight, storage functionality is central to those systems fully delivering the goods. That’s especially true for emerging “data-driven” workloads, such as advanced analytics and artificial intelligence. Plus, when you consider the applications and processes that modern organizations are using to reinvent themselves, all require seamless access to ever-larger volumes of information, rapid upload/download performance, easy management and support for complementary features—including seamless access to public cloud platforms.

Enterprise customers were (no surprise) the first in line when IBM combined its NVMe, IBM FlashCore and IBM Spectrum Virtualize technologies in the new Storwize V7000 systems it introduced in 2018. That reflects how higher-capacity and higher-performance storage complements mainstream workloads and emerging applications, including business modernization, hybrid cloud and AI-related machine learning.

So now it’s time for IBM’s midmarket customers to get into the act. The updated and new Storwize V5000 family members should help ensure that those organizations will have access to the technologies for supporting new initiatives, whatever the technical requirements might be. Those obviously include on-premises deployments in customer data centers and at remote/branch offices (ROBOs), both use cases where the new V5000 solutions should be notably valuable.

But the benefits aren’t just a matter of bigger, faster hardware. Adding support for AWS to Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud service is clearly aimed at broadening benefits for midmarket customers and smaller organizations. For them and the channel partners with whom they work, the new offering could be particularly intriguing, since it allows public cloud platforms to more effectively support disaster recovery functions that once required stand-alone IT facilities. Additionally, the new “air gapping” capability adds a straightforward means for organizations to improve their cyber-resilience.

IBM’s plans for the Container Storage Interface are also intriguing. While the company has actively supported containers in virtualization platforms, including VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V, CSI’s status as an industry standard should simplify managing storage in containers and help customers avoid vendor lock-in. In that sense, bringing CSI to IBM Storwize is very much in line with the broad heterogeneous platform capabilities Spectrum Virtualize already offers.

Final Analysis

IBM’s new Storwize V5000 solutions show what can happen when enterprise-specific technologies dependably evolve into affordable, innovative midmarket solutions. At the same time, the functional enhancements to the Storwize portfolio and Spectrum Virtualize demonstrate how a vendor can grow the value it offers by studying how customers and partners operate their businesses and then addressing those specific requirements.

IBM’s new Storwize V5000 family will certainly deliver performance and technical benefits that are considerably beyond what prior generation V5000 solutions offered. More importantly, these solutions should help IBM customers and partners successfully explore and exploit current and future business opportunities.

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