At IBM Edge 2012 IBM made its case for having a better end-to-end solid state disk (SSD) strategy over its competitors. For the major suppliers (IBM, EMC, HP, Dell) there are several key locations where they need to be executing a flash strategy. They need to compliment their current storage systems with flash SSD, develop new technology that is entirely flash storage or heavily dependent on it, develop a server side flash deployment and finally implement some form of cross domain integration of flash storage.
When it comes to complimenting its current systems with flash IBM has its Easy Tier technology that is available across its product line today. It has an advantage in that the San Volume Controller and the V7000 storage system can not only tier within the IBM product family but can integrate other manufacturer’s offerings as well. This allows their customers to extend the life of their prior storage systems instead of doing a total rip and replace. It also allows them to integrate performance specific storage systems like those from Violin Memory and Texas Memory Systems as we have discussed in the prior articles.
In addition to those relationships IBM also announced a pure flash storage system at Edge 2012 that can provide 12TB of SSD storage in its initial release and 24TB before the end of the year. This all flash system with front loading SSDs will be able to deliver as much as 650k worth of IOPS and 4.6GB/sec of bandwidth. At a minimum you have to give IBM a check mark for covering the flash only segment, they may be in a position to quickly take a leadership role.
IBM’s PCIe or server side flash strategy is to leverage existing vendors and not to come out with a proprietary product of their own. IBM has relationships in place with some of the major flash providers and not trying to pick the winner and loser in the PCIe race may be a wise decision.
The final step is IBM’s cross domain strategy. This would give IBM two tier storage directly into a server for example. IBM clearly stated that it has plans to address this market and already has products closing in on GA. What was particularly interesting is IBM’s statement that they would have the ability to provide application hinting. This is the ability to have an application “pre-warm” the SSD tier including a cache inside the server. This is ideal since the application knows before anything else what data is about to become “hot” and may give IBM an unprecedented advantage when comparing flash strategies.
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IBM has covered the bases on its Flash Story and there are a couple of areas where they can claim a clear advantage, especially around SVC and potentially its cross domain strategy. They also have a more basic advantage. They spend research dollars on advanced memory technologies. While they may end up using standard memory based devices, the fact that they have people in the organization that have this level of understanding of memory based technology should be a clear advantage to IBM if they take advantage of those resources.
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