Zen and the Art of Object Storage

“If I were to go down to the bank and ask to see my money they would look at me peculiarly. They don’t have “my money” in any little drawer…”My money” is nothing but some east-west and north-south magnetic domains in some iron oxide resting on a roll of tape in a computer storage bin.”

Robert M. Pirsig,  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 1974

I love it when worlds collide. After years of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance lingering on my “to-read” list, I finally began reading the classic last week. A data storage junkie focused on financial services, I had to re-read the above passage, and it made me stop and think: so much has remained the same since Robert Pirsig wrote these lines, yet so much has changed.

My money, and probably yours, is data residing on a storage medium – tape or more probably a disk drive or flash device. In the not too distant past, bank account data was largely one-dimensional, only a few data fields associated with each account and the data being accessed infrequently. But as the data universe has grown, the data generated by us, about us, and for us has transformed from uni- to multi-dimensional. For financial institutions, this multi-dimensional data has the potential to help serve customers better.

Banking hard off the datasphere

The data universe, or datasphere, continues to explode. IDC recently published a paper estimating that by 2025 the global datasphere will grow to a whopping 163 zettabytes (1 zettabyte = 1 trillion GB). But how much of this data is truly important? IDC points out that 20% of this data will be critical to our daily lives, and 10% will be hyper-critical. Much of the critical and hyper-critical data naturally fall in the financial services arena.

In 2025, banking will be radically different. It’s not improbable that we’ll be executing transactions anywhere in the world via a quick voice command, text message, or maybe even a blink or thought, using seamless identification methods being developed today by millennial coders on a cloud. And banks and FinTech firms will be adept at predicting our needs, perhaps before we thought about carrying out a transaction, requesting a mortgage, etc.

As IDC points out, successful businesses and banking institutions will be the ones that know how to identify and leverage data that matter most. When Pirsig wrote his novel, banks held minimal data on customers, but today, data sources that affect customers can be culled from proprietary core banking systems as well as social media, weather history and forecasts, neighborhood demographics, and so many other sources.

IBM Cloud Object Storage: Now and zen

So how can financial institutions reach a state of “business zen,” a state in which they harness data to serve customers better? Today, that’s a challenge. In fact, 72% of financial firms cite managing data growth as a top IT issue. And within managing data, the three top difficulties are high maintenance costs, capital budget constraints, and lagging infrastructure.


With about 80% of the newly generated data being unstructured (photos, videos, tweets, and the like), it’s no surprise that object storage – the efficient, cost-effective way to store unstructured data – has become a central pillar to grappling with the data deluge. Indeed, banks across the world are utilizing object storage on- and off-premises to solve their top storage challenges — cutting costs, managing data more simply, shifting from CAPEX to OPEX with cloud models, and reducing maintenance. And just as importantly, banks are beginning to run analytics and cognitive computing across their own data lakes and data in the cloud to serve ever-more-demanding customers better.

IBM’s market leading offering, IBM Cloud Object Storage has enabled financial institutions to drive business results by simplifying the management of copious data volumes, cutting operational costs, and helping improve the customer experience. Two examples of financial services firms on their way to object storage zen with IBM Cloud Object Storage:

  • A large financial securities firm streamlined 2 petabytes of file storage and its backup/recovery footprint. lowering storage costs by 70%.  
  • A leading insurance company was able to modernize its backup and archive strategy, utilizing a tiered approach to lower cost with IBM Spectrum Protect.

Learn more about IBM Cloud Object Storage with the analyst paper and free trial offer below…and read Pirsig’s classic. I think he’d agree that it’s all about the cloud journey, not the destination:

Read the Frost & Sullivan paper: How banks benefit from object storage

Try free here: IBM Cloud Object Storage

My 2 Cents: Outperforming banks say “bring on hybrid cloud”

In my last blog (It’s 2017…do you know where your data is going), I discussed how IT departments at financial institutions are laying the groundwork for hybrid clouds.

As if on cue – and perhaps as a birthday gift (yes, it’s my birthday today!) – IBM’s Institute for Business Value published an excellent report entitled Tailoring hybrid cloud for banking, providing insights and information on this same topic.

Hedging on hybrid cloud

The report provides details on how cloud, especially hybrid cloud, is becoming an enabler for banking innovation, efficiency, and growth. It’s an excellent read for anyone touching the interstices of IT and banking and provides interesting data points:

  • The banking segment is the most aggressive and largest adopter of cloud across industries, accounting for 16% of total cloud spending….

To read the rest of the blog, click and head on over to my LinkedIn article.

Change of address, sort of…

Hi all. Just a quick update:

A few months ago, I began posting articles and posts directly in LinkedIn.

Here’s a linked list of the articles I’ve written in the last few months:

Going forward, as I publish at LinkedIn and other sites, I’ll post a quick blog here with a link.

Thanks for your continued support and helpful feedback!

Turning up the volume on cloud storage conversations

With Thanksgiving and December just around the corner, I naturally find myself reflecting on 2016 and this year’s highlights for IBM Storage. Continued leadership in flash, software defined storage, object storage, as well as mainframe and tape storage are surely worthy of note. Equally significant are the strides that IBM has made in allowing customers to leverage the economies of storage in the cloud – private, public, and the ever-more pervasive form, hybrid.
As over 70% of organizations already know, hybrid cloud has become the prevalent way to deploy IT. And that means that IT infrastructure – including data storage – must, yes must, empower organizations to simply and efficiently store and move all types of data across the IT landscape. To that end, IBM continuously infuses offerings with functionality that enables end-users to squeeze as much value as possible from hybrid cloud. A stream of enhancements and features has rolled out in 2016, and here are only three of the many enhancements (learn more in this presentation):

  • Moving data among clouds – transfer data simply and securely to a variety of clouds with Transparent Cloud Tiering, now available in offerings such as IBM Spectrum Scale, IBM Spectrum Protect, and IBM Spectrum Virtualize 
  • Managing hyper-scale environments – monitor and manage over 100 IBM FlashSystem, IBM XIV, and IBM Spectrum Accelerate instances on- and off-premises as one flexible hyper store (watch the demo here)
  • Deploying object storage anywhere – scale large unstructured data volumes across on-premises systems as well as public and private clouds quickly and easily with IBM Cloud Object Storage

Cue up the dialogue, live and on-demand
What’s been especially interesting over the last 24 months is listening to a growing number of enterprises and service providers as they share their cloud-building experiences. Those were on display in droves at the recent IBM Edge event with dozens of end-users such as Microsoft, University of Chicago, and Unisys presenting at length on their experiences using IBM Storage to build out clouds of all shapes and forms.

The good news is that a recently launched webinar series keeps the dialogue on tap. We’ll continue talking to IT experts so that you can learn from their experiences and best practices. A number of excellent ones such as those with Unisys and Winnipeg Free Press are already available for your listening pleasure.
welchs-builds-hybrid-cloud_socialtile_01-02As part of this series, I will be hosting Mukesh Sharma, senior IT manager at Welch’s. Register to tune in and hear how this leading juice and jelly company is transforming its IT to stay ahead of the competition; placing workloads such as Oracle, email, finance, etc. across its hybrid cloud environment; and planning for the future with cognitive computing.

I look forward to seeing you on the 28th and, until then, wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating the holiday later this week!

On Edge: End users in the limelight

It’s been quite some time since my last post. The good news is that everything is great; the better news is that we’ve been heads down at IBM Storage, the pace picking up – not abating – during the summer. From announcements, to webinars, to awards – things sure have been frenetic.

For my part, I’ve been putting a special focus on upcoming events, especially IBM Edge 2016 which takes place in less than four weeks. In this blog, I’ll give a behind the scenes view into some of our efforts to ensure that attendees learn directly from peers how to drive business growth with cognitive computing and hybrid cloud.

Straight from the horse’s mouth
Honestly, the most impactful way to convey knowledge is to let those with experience step to the front. In that vein, about half of the sessions at Edge 2016 feature clients or business partners sharing how they are designing, building, and deploying infrastructure to stay competitive and drive business results. This focus on end users has certainly been prevalent in my work with various sessions:

  • General Sessions: show and tell
    The General Sessions will highlight IT leaders that incessantly push the boundaries – or outthink the status quo. Representatives from Red Bull Racing, Welch’s, and other organizations will share their experiences, lessons, and best practices from the front lines.
    Edge-EarlyBird-Tile-4-440x220In the run up to the event, I’ve had a unique view into how Welch’s – the well-known juice, jam, and jelly company – constantly innovates, transforms, and re-invents to stay competitive and get the most out of every dollar spent on IT for its farmer-owned organization. The way Welch’s weaves technologies to harness insights from internal and external data is truly eye-opening, and I’m excited about its General Session vignette.
  • Breakout sessions: real people, real world
    In addition to the General Sessions, Edge will include over 850 breakout sessions. Of these, 280 are storage-related, covering a wide range of topics in eight distinct tracks, including data protection, flash, software-defined infrastructure, and converged systems. The storage agenda includes scores of end-user narratives – from enterprises, business partners, and service providers of various shapes and sizes – demonstrating how IBM Storage offerings play a critical role in building solid foundations for hybrid clouds.  

Information_icon Dig into the storage tracks and content here

In the Cloud Solutions track, with which I’ve been involved, over 20 end-users will discuss how they are building storage for hybrid clouds using building blocks such as flash and software defined storage. And I’m not alone. Seven of my storage colleagues and those across IBM Systems have been diligently crafting amazing tracks with copious end user content.


But wait, there’s more
It goes without saying that there’s more than “just” great end-user content. That’s simply what I’ve been especially close to. Attendees will rock out with Train; stroll and learn in the expansive expo area; network poolside; deep dive with IBM experts; meet IBM executives in one-on-one meetings; attend exclusive one-day solution provider and content marketing events, and so much more.
What’s next?
Here are four steps you can take now to learn more:

  1. Head to the event site
  2. Peruse the Session Preview Tool
  3. Download the mobile app and plan your week in Vegas (Apple | Android)
  4. Follow @IBMEdge on Twitter

…now you know why I’ve been so quiet the last few weeks. I’m looking forward to a productive month and to seeing you soon in Vegas!

A new storage UI from IBM: simply sophisticated

What has twenty patents, eight tentacles, and is cooler than a six-pack on a scorching day?

Hint: it “lives” in the recently announced IBM FlashSystem A9000.

Give up? It’s the IBM Hyper-Scale Manager 5.0, a new, ultra-cool storage management user interface (UI) that integrates IBM Design Thinking, hundreds of hours of end-user workshop sessions, and the latest in the art and science of man-machine interface.

I was super impressed with how much work you guys have done on the new FlashSystem management interface and how much easier to use it is…I think it’s just like night and day.”
Storage Administrator and UI User Group Participant

You say you want a revolution
Back in the day, IBM XIV revolutionized data storage and storage management by introducing previously unknown levels of simplicity to our field. The secret sauce to IBM XIV’s ease has as much to do with an architecture that eliminates dozens of painful storage tasks as with its UI which transcends the one-dimensional approach to storage management often found among competitor interfaces.

Fast forward to 2016, and IBM has done it again. Combining the blazing performance of all-flash with a grid architecture, the FlashSystem A9000 family of products also includes a new UI. Among the first IBM efforts to integrate the agile principles of IBM Design Thinking, not to mention countless hours of end-user studies and numerous pieces of feedback from a core group of beta customers, the new UI is set to revolutionize storage management.


Instantly gain insights and identify issues with The Hub’s health widget

Cranking up the business value
What’s so special about the new UI? It boils down to crunching copious information and data points into an intuitive web-based dashboard that is – at one and the same time – simple and sophisticated. Users can gain deep insights based on dozens of parameters in one 10,000-foot view; customize parameters that elaborate on their storage situation; and telescope in and out of storage elements with one mouse click.


Configure, modify, and monitor multiple pools and volumes easily and quickly

There are many reasons that storage admins will find the new UI compelling. Two specific ones brought up most frequently by the designers are:

  • The Hub – the new UI includes a mini-dashboard or Hub whose main element has affectionately been nicknamed “the octopus” (thus the reference to tentacles in the opening riddle). The Hub is what’s known as a single page application (SPA) which presents all essential information on one screen that a user can configure. “Anywhere-to-anywhere” navigation allows users to navigate to any related object from any object in any component – giving the power to provision, monitor, and troubleshoot quickly. And strong cognitive filtering learns a user’s behavior and suggests views that provide the information that an admin would seek.
  • Business value – as with the XIV UI, which has since been deployed across IBM Storage products, the value of the new UI results from savings associated with features that simplify storage, such as The Hub, health widgets, smart filters, tabs and much more; these new features turn often-cumbersome tasks such as provisioning, capacity planning, mirroring, etc., into a snap, cutting administration times by over 90% for many activities. 

Seeing is believing
Screenshots and words can only go so far. So now’s the time to witness the magic yourself by heading to the demo and Redbook below:

Demo clip (14 minutes)demo1

FlashSystem A9000 Redbook (deeper dive)


Meet, greet…get in the driver’s seat
If you’d like to meet the design team, Edge 2016 is a great opportunity to get acquainted (register here). The design team will lead a user study at the event, allowing storage admins to join the design family and influence the future of the UI.

Of course, if you can’t wait until September to demo and meet the designers, reach out to the team lead, Moshe Weiss, by heading to his blog

Storage for hybrid cloud: Choice with consistency

It’s a great time for data storage. I know how many will react to this statement: “Is this guy serious? Enterprise storage revenues have been lackluster; the cloud is crushing storage vendors; and companies are moving data to the cloud because cloud storage is free.”

In reality, things are a bit different. It’s true that cloud computing is transforming the IT landscape and that companies are leveraging the cloud for compute and storage to tap into efficiencies and new business models. But the above claims fall short in a few ways:

  • A lot of data – I’ve seen estimates ranging from 40% to 55% – is and will continue to be stored on-premises
  • Cloud storage isn’t exactly free, and it can actually be quite costly

The fact that the ratio of on-premises to off-premises is about 1:1 jibes with the fact that IT is shifting to a model known as hybrid cloud. The latter is a combination of on-premises and off-premises infrastructure, with enterprise data stored in multiple locations.ibm_caihybridit_datagram_heretostay

And that’s why it’s a great time for data storage. Emerging models usher in new opportunities for forward-looking companies (and vendors). Still, enterprises should be selective when choosing storage; storage that provides choice with consistency and that “understands and treats” data according to its inherent value will serve companies best in hybrid cloud environments.

Choice with consistency
The mix of on- and off-premises infrastructure means that companies require storage primed for a hybrid cloud environment. Data needs to flow easily across storage infrastructure wherever infrastructure resides – on- and off-premises and in any cloud. 
checks2More significantly, storage should offer organizations choice with consistency. Companies should have a choice of consuming storage in different ways – e.g., as integrated systems, as software, and as cloud services. And there should be consistency in user experience, regardless of the way storage is deployed by a company today and in the future. Software defined storage is key to turning choice with consistency into a reality.

Data temperatures
Organizations will choose storage based on their unique business needs. And these needs are tied to a great extent to different “temperatures” of data.  From studies of data undertaken by IBM, data heat maps show interesting patterns:

  • 40% of data is “very warm to hot” (with approximately 15% being very hot)
  • 60% of data is infrequently or never used

And irrespective of temperatures and heat maps, all or most data should be protected for business continuity and/or regulatory reasons.

These patterns and the need to protect data can help companies understand where data should be placed:

  • Off-premises
    • Companies should consider moving the 60% of data that is accessed infrequently to more inexpensive cloud options given that: there is an economic case to do so, and constraints such as regulations and compliance do not require that data remain on-premises.
    • Companies should explore attractive cloud backup and disaster recovery for the preponderance of the data that they need to protect
  • On-premises
    • Enterprises should deploy flash for the 40% of data that is very warm to hot 
    • For the colder 60% of data required to stay on-premises, companies should resort to more inexpensive disk and tape media

Proven storage in hybrid clouds
IBM Storage offerings act as the solid foundation for hybrid environments at numerous companies. Choice with consistency empowers organizations to deploy storage on- and off-premises and in various clouds in a way that suits their requirements and allows them flexibility to change in the future in a non-disruptive way. The offerings also allow for the automatic movement of data to the most appropriate medium and location, in line with the various temperatures, or value, of data.

In coming weeks, we will highlight a number of companies deploying various IBM Storage offerings in hybrid cloud environments, so keep your eyes peeled on your social media feeds. Speaking of which, let’s connect so that you get the scoop in real time:

And, finally, next week’s #FlashEverywhere events are very relevant to the future of storage in hybrid clouds! I’ll be blogging about that as well so stay tuned. In the meantime, please register for the webcast by clicking here