IBM has announced a significant expansion of its flash storage portfolio. At the core of the announcement is hybrid cloud and the need for cloud-based systems to store data at the same speed as on-premises hardware. To make this happen IBM has released two new members of the IBM FlashSystem family.
Greg Lotko, general manager of IBM Storage and Software Defined Infrastructure said: “The drastic increase in volume, velocity and variety of information is requiring businesses to rethink their approach to addressing storage needs… IBM’s flash portfolio enables businesses on their cognitive journey to derive greater value from more data in more varieties, whether on premises or in a hybrid cloud deployment.”
Two new storage systems to speed up hybrid cloud
The two new systems that IBM has announced are the IBM FlashSystem A9000 and the IBM FlashSystem A9000R. According to IBM, both models have been purpose-built for the cloud and contain a host of features that will appeal to cloud service providers as well as enterprise customers.
The FlashSystem A9000 is an 8U unit containing 3 grid controllers and a single 2U storage enclosure. Storage starts at 60TB and increases to 300TB per unit. You can manage up to 144 units together from a single management console. IBM is claiming a performance up to 500,000 IOPS depending on the read/write ratio.
The FlashSystem A9000R is a rack based configuration that comes with 4 grid controllers and 2 storage controllers. This can be increased to a total of 12 grid controllers and 6 storage controllers inside a single rack. Storage starts at 300TB and can grow to 1.8PB. The FlashSystem A9000R is self-tuning which means you simply add in more storage and it will reconfigure and balance without the need for complex planning. IBM is claiming a performance up to 2 million IOPS depending on the read/write ratio.
Both units share a number of features such as:
- IBM FlashCore: This is technology IBM introduced over a year ago. It uses a combination of technologies including hardware acceleration, IBM designed flash modules and IBM’s own flash management software. IBM’s message here is that an all hardware solution has a lower latency than disk/hybrid solutions that rely on software. As part of this announcement it is claiming around a 10x increase in CPU utilisation and app efficiency over disk/hybrid solutions. What that translates to is a significant increase in I/O performance.
- Secure Multi-Tenancy: This is a feature aimed at the cloud service provider market. It allows each tenant to have their own management and encryption.
- QoS: New QoS tools are designed to help reduce the problem of noisy neighbours and guarantee performance set out in Service Level Agreements.
- Data Efficiency Suite: There are a range of new features here which have been integrated with each other. IBM says that all the elements have been written from the ground up for the FlashSystem A9000 and FlashSystem A9000R. For data reduction there are three features, pattern removal, inline deduplication and inline compression. To improve the efficiency of the storage IBM has also added thin provisioning and what it calls space-efficient snapshots although there is little information on this at present.
- Cloud integration: According to the announcement there are a number of out of the box cloud integrations. These include Microsoft Azure, VMware, OpenStack, SoftLayer and a REST API for other clouds. Interestingly IBM chose only to give detailed information around its VMware integration, presumably as part of the closer ties the two vendors have been forging recently.
- New Management Interface: This release sees a significant overhaul of the existing FlashSystem management interface. A new UI, more detailed analytics, a better health dashboard and more granular data on how to manage storage efficiently are among the new features here.
- Portability of software licences: IBM has been consistent in allowing customers to move to new technologies over the last year and take their existing licences with them. As part of this announcement customers using IBM Spectrum Storage Suite or Spectrum Accelerate will be able to use those licences across the new FlashStorage systems.
This is a major upgrade to IBM’s storage portfolio and follows on from the announcement at IBM InterConnect that the future is hybrid cloud. Having already made all of its core software hybrid cloud aware it is now targeting hybrid cloud with its hardware. It will be interesting to see how quickly customers begin to buy and deploy these new storage solutions and how many really do use them in a hybrid cloud rather than to just provide faster storage for their existing environment.
Surprisingly there was no real focus on encryption. IBM has hardware accelerators that are used to encrypted data on its System z mainframes that could have been used here, especially as they are all based on IBM POWER processors. There is no pricing as yet and IBM will need to provide more detail on its support for cloud providers other than VMware.