IBM Storage – Squeezing Enterprise Value into Small, Flexible Form Factors

By Charles King, Pund-IT®  February 10, 2021

The trickle-down effect of enterprise IT is as old as business technology. Vendors have long aimed new innovations at enterprises whose deep pockets and desire for competitive advantage will lead them to pay a premium for shiny new products. Over time and with the help of constant technological evolution, yesterday’s leading-edge solutions are reconfigured and repackaged for smaller companies with tighter budgets.

That dynamic has played out time and again across enterprise tech, but recent developments, including the Covid-19 pandemic, have hastened the speed and urgency of the process, especially in data storage. Companies of all sizes are struggling to effectively manage increasingly massive amounts of business information both on premises and in often sprawling hybrid cloud environments. What are vendors doing to help these customers?

The new FlashSystem 5200 announced this week by IBM is a good example of how to squeeze enterprise-class capacity, performance and other innovations into flexible, affordable packages suitable for any size organization. Let’s consider IBM’s new offerings and what they will mean for its customers.

Making storage simple – not simplistic

According to IBM, the FlashSystem 5200 is “designed to provide enterprise-class storage capabilities to organizations of any size.” The new solution comes in a compact 1U form factor but while its data capacity starts at 38TB, it can be scaled-up to 1.7PB using compression and deduplication, and even more with expansion enclosures and clustering.

Though its enclosure is half the size of traditional storage systems, the FlashSystem 5200 delivers 66% greater maximum I/Os (1.5M IOPS) and 40% more data throughput (at 21GB/s) than its predecessor, the FlashSystem 5100. Unusually for entry systems, FlashSystem 5200 supports 4-way clustering for performance and capacity scalability up to 32PB, 6M IOPS, and 84GB/s.

Depending on configuration, the new solution’s base price is on average 20% lower than the FlashSystem 5100, a vital point for cash-constrained companies and organizations struggling to deal with pandemic-related business challenges. Despite its substantially lower cost the FlashSystem 5200, like the rest of IBM’s flash storage portfolio, supports numerous cloud-native and traditional data center platforms, including Red Hat OpenShift, Container Storage Interface (CSI) for Kubernetes, Ansible automation, and Kubernetes, as well as VMware and bare metal environments.

The FlashSystem 5200 also includes well-known IBM storage software and features, including Storage Insights (which offers visibility across complex storage environments), Spectrum Virtualize (which enables stored data to be cost-effectively consolidated and managed as if it were a single pool), and HyperSwap (which supports automatic failover in case of site incident).

In essence, the FlashSystem 5200 qualifies as a significant addition to the “storage made simple” strategy IBM announced a year ago.

Enhancing hybrid cloud functionality and value

Also notable are the hybrid cloud features and functions IBM is planning for the FlashSystem 5200. Denis Kennelly, GM of IBM Storage stated that, “As the world moves more rapidly toward hybrid cloud, modernized data storage is at the foundation.” Why so? Because enterprise-class data availability, resilience, automation and data services are core requirements for companies that depend on hybrid cloud-based business functions and processes.

To that end, when it becomes generally available in March, the company will add support for IBM Cloud Satellite (currently in beta) to its FlashSystem portfolio, IBM SAN Volume Controller, IBM Elastic Storage System and IBM Spectrum Scale. Cloud Satellite is designed to help companies quickly and simply build, deploy and manage cloud services anywhere – in any public cloud, on-premises data centers and at the edge of networks. The ability to use existing storage should help reduce the cost of Cloud Satellite deployments.

IBM Cloud Satellite will be delivered as-a-service from a single pane of glass and managed through the IBM Cloud. In addition, IBM Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud enables clients to replicate or migrate data from heterogeneous storage systems between on-premises environments and IBM Cloud or Amazon Web Services (AWS). IBM plans to extend the same capabilities to Microsoft Azure beginning with a beta program in Q3 2021.

Final analysis

Among the lessons that businesses and business owners have learned during the past year is that the line demarcating enterprise-class computing is becoming ever thinner. That is likely to become increasingly apparent as organizations shift support for processes and functions to cloud computing platforms and environments.

IBM has been at the forefront of this evolution for nearly a decade, developing and delivering highly flexible solutions and hybrid cloud services designed to meet the needs of global businesses. Overall, the new IBM FlashSystem 5200 is a worthy addition to the company’s portfolio of enterprise-class data storage offerings and also reflects IBM’s intention to provide those solutions to organizations of every size.

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