IBM Storage Enhances Mid-Market and Channel Solutions

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  April 17, 2019

Continual product evolution is one of the tech industry’s best and longest running selling points. It’s the foundational truth underlying technical chestnuts, like Moore’s Law and provides the subtext for innumerable marketing and promotional campaigns. But an often unaddressed yet valuable point to consider is the top-down way in which this evolution usually proceeds.

Developing new products costs money – lots, in fact, when it comes to business solutions. So not surprisingly, new products are initially designed to address the needs of large enterprises and other organizations that can afford to foot the bill and are willing to pay a premium for the new features, capabilities and benefits those solutions provide.

But eventually – often, fairly quickly – what were once enterprise-specific technologies find their way into more affordable, yet still innovative products designed for smaller companies and the channel/business partners that serve them. These points are clear in the new and updated additions IBM recently made to its Storwize V5000 family of solutions.

What IBM announced

What is IBM bringing to the table with its new V5000 solutions? Basically, two new flavors of high-performance storage designed/priced for the mid-market:

  1. The Storwize V5010E and V5030E (which replace the V5010 and V5030) solutions both offer storage capabilities with significantly greater IOPs (I/Os per second) performance but cost 30% less than the 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 offers compression and deduplication, more cache (32, 64GB), 20% better IOPs and scales to 23PB of storage in a single system or 32PB with 2-way clustering (up to 760 or 1,520 HDDs/SSDs).
  2. The new all-flash Storwize V5100/V5100F offer even more features than the other new V5000 family members including end-to-end NVMe but deliver 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’s Spectrum Virtualize software is being bundled with the new V5000 offerings at no additional charge, and supports management functions, including snapshots, encryption and storage virtualization for 450+ IBM and non-IBM arrays. The company added support for AWS to its Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud (which previously supported only IBM Cloud) and introduced a new “air gapping” function which allows snapshots of data to be isolated on public cloud platforms away from production environments. The company also said it will introduce support for the industry standard Container Storage Interface (CSI) in the second quarter.

Why it matters

Good enough, but what’s really the point here? Do IBM’s updated, and new Storwize offerings qualify as anything but a typical product refresh?

First, though storage solutions are often accorded less attention than leading edge computing systems, storage functionality is central to those systems fully delivering the goods. When you consider the applications, workloads and processes that modern organizations are using to reinvent themselves, all require seamless access to ever larger volumes of data, rapid upload/download performance, easy management features and support for complementary features, including support for public cloud platforms.

Not surprisingly, enterprise customers were 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 the need for higher capacity and performance storage continues to grow for supporting mainstream workloads and emerging applications, including business modernization, hybrid cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

The updated and new Storwize V5000 family members should help ensure that IBM’s mid-market customers have access to the technologies for new initiatives, whatever the technical requirements might be. Those obviously include on-premises deployments in customer data centers and at remote/branch offices (ROBOs), another use case where the new V5000 solutions should be notably valuable.

However, adding support for AWS to its Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud service is clearly aimed broadening how IBM supports the use of public cloud by its mid-customers, including smaller organizations. For them and the channel partners they work with, the new offering could be particularly intriguing since it allows public cloud platforms to better support disaster recovery functions that once required companies to build and maintain standalone facilities. Plus, the new “air gapping” capability adds a straightforward means for organizations to improve their cyber resilience.

Also intriguing is IBM’s plan to support block and file data via the Container Storage Interface. While the company has long enabled 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, supporting CSI is very much in line with the heterogeneous capabilities of IBM’s Spectrum Virtualize.

Final analysis

These new Storwize V5000 solutions offer a great example of what can happen when enterprise-specific technologies evolve into affordable, innovative solutions for mid-market organizations. But at the same time, the additions to IBM’s Storwize portfolio and Spectrum Virtualize show how a vendor can expand the value it offers customers and business partners by studying their computing requirements and addressing their business needs.

Overall, IBM’s new Storwize V5000 should provide technical benefits that are considerably beyond previous generation V5000 solutions. More importantly, they will help the companies that depend on IBM to successfully explore and exploit existing and emerging business opportunities.

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