Customers converge on VersaStack for cloud

Converged systems have made quite a splash in the market in the last 24 months. By IDC’s last tally, converged systems garnered over $10 billion from Q4 ’15 to Q3 ’16. What makes converged systems and their tight integration and “packaging” of traditional datacenter components – compute, network, and storage – so attractive to end users?

It’s about cloud
Well, a primary reason is actually extrinsic to converged systems themselves, namely the relatively rapid adoption of cloud computing by enterprises and service providers. Even the casual observer knows the statistics, but they’re worth repeating in this context; we’re well beyond the cloud tipping point, with over 80% of companies committing to hybrid cloud by the end of this year. (IDC)

infographicClick to view infographic

When asked why they are interested in cloud, most organizations often cite simplicity, efficiency, and agility. Guess what? Converged systems offer enterprises and service providers the ability to build out their as-a-service toolkit with these same exact attributes.

The VersaStack Way
VersaStack is a converged system – more specifically an integrated infrastructure offering – that hits these pain points head on. Launched one year ago by Cisco and IBM, VersaStack marries best-of-breed, enterprise class technologies, including Cisco UCS, Cisco Nexus switches, and IBM Storage offerings. In the span of one year, it has already very successfully delivered on its value proposition to a diverse set of customers:

  • Easy: integrated, pre-tested server, storage, and networking allow for simple deployment, and single-pane management eases operations
  • Efficient: built-in storage efficiencies such as compression help cut costs, while auto-tiering allows administrators to focus on higher value-add operations
  • Versatile: seamless scale-up and scale-out make it ideal for enterprise private cloud; external storage virtualization enables leveraging of existing storage

VersaStack is well-suited for IT organizations and solution providers seeking to move rapidly, while providing enterprise-grade, reliable services. It allows companies to create and transform data center infrastructure into pools of resources that can be easily allocated and re-purposed, measured, monitored, and charged.

Register for: How VersaStack delivers on its one year promise
Featuring: Jonathan Cox, Medicat, Director – Technology Services
February 11, 2016, 12 PM EST

From the mouths of customers
How are cloud customers using VersaStack? Here are a few examples:

  • i-Virtualize, a provider of cloud and on-premises computing solutions across North America, hosts its cloud infrastructure and cites simplicity and the agility to respond quickly to customer demands as significant benefits

dan-ivirtualizeClick to view

  • Dutch Cloud, a cloud services provider in the Netherlands leans on VersaStack as the building block for its new data center due its simplicity and enterprise class credentials.
    Read more (in Dutch) 

Dig into VersaStack
There’s plenty of material discussing how VersaStack can help organizations like yours with their cloud goals. Here are a few starting points:

Also, check out these blogs:


XIV, RtC, SDS: All in a year’s work for Ori Bauer and team

OriI love December. As the year draws to a close, it’s great to reflect on the past as well as the future. I recently sat with Ori Bauer to do exactly that.

With over two decades in high-tech, Ori is director of development for XIV Storage and the IBM Systems development center in Israel. Joining IBM with the acquisition of Storwize (where he was VP of engineering), Ori began his present position 2.5 years ago. 2015 was an intensive year for Ori and his team, and Ori was kind enough to sit with me and share his year-end thoughts.

Q: Looking back at 2015, what were your team’s two biggest accomplishments?
A: The past year was chock-full of accomplishments. In Q1, we announced Spectrum Accelerate, a software defined storage (SDS) offering based on the IBM XIV software stack. This SDS product provides customers with agility – a new XIV grid can be deployed within minutes – and flexibility – customers can use standard x86 servers to scale clouds as needed.

Second, around mid-year, we announced version 11.6 of XIV Gen 3, in which we introduced Real-time Compression (RtC) into XIV. With this announcement, we became the first enterprise disk storage array to integrate compression, allowing companies to deal with the number one problem related to storage: data growth. And we recently announced a new version – dubbed Turbo Compression – giving the same 5:1 compression without any performance impact.

Q: Where do you see storage going based on what customers are saying? A: Customers tell us they have two primary storage challenges: capacity growth and the ability to manage rapidly expanding capacity. All this, while keeping the FTE count and budget flat. So we naturally work a lot with customers on data reduction and increasing storage efficiencies. As part of this effort, we continue to improve storage management – where we’re already a market leader.

In parallel, SDS has gone from a buzzword to reality. Lots of customers, including large ones, are deploying SDS, looking for agility and flexibility. The market now recognizes that SDS is complementary to appliances, such as XIV. It’s all about assembling the right combination of SDS and appliance components to solve a customer’s business challenges. And in our case, customers combine the XIV appliance with Spectrum Accelerate to fit their workloads and deployment choices; this winning combination allows them to manage, move, and mirror all of their data from one pane of glass.

Q: How does public cloud affect you?
A: Some enterprise customers are cautiously making the journey to public cloud, and we’re at their side in this journey. For example, XIV customers are using Spectrum Accelerate on SoftLayer as a disaster recovery solution (DR) for their on-premises XIVs. So, that’s an enterprise DR solution that’s up in a few clicks.

Other customers are, for example, storing mission critical data, using clusters of Spectrum Accelerate deployed at SoftLayer data centers.

silverpop1Learn how Silverpop moved to the cloud with Spectrum Accelerate

What’s really great is that these customers are getting consistent high performance for their heterogeneous workloads – especially in virtualized environments – whether they deploy with XIV or Spectrum Accelerate.…and, as I said, all data can be monitored and managed from one pane of glass.

By the way, MSPs and CSPs need storage infrastructure too. We naturally sell well into this market because XIV’s tune-free, grid architecture is so ideal for cloud.

twc2MSP Time Warner Cable leans on XIV for all of its cloud services

Q: What about your development philosophy, and how do you stay ahead of the curve?
A: This has been a very busy year, and we’ve taken huge strides in many areas – some of whose fruits are yet to be revealed.

To meet our missions, we’ve moved to Agile Development. We’ve changed our processes to be more dynamic so that we can react quicker to changes in the market and create more value for customers.

In addition, we were one of the first to embrace IBM Design Thinking, which places the customer in the center of every decision and move. As part of this effort, we work with design partner customers that provide us with feedback in real-time, leading to a radical improvement of our offerings.

Q: What can we look forward to in 2016 from you and your team?
A: I wish I could tell you more…but in general, look out for more activities around the two high-growth areas where IBM is a market leader: SDS and Flash. Flash has moved beyond the tipping point, and we’re innovating tremendously on this front.

Q: Any parting words?
A: I’d like to close by wishing happy holidays to our loyal customers and, of course, to our dedicated development team and staff. May 2016 be a year of prosperity, health, and success.

Look, up in the sky: Enterprise storage stalwarts now in the cloud

Confession time: when I began my own journey in the cloud storage space, two offerings stood out as unlikely candidates: tape and very high-end disk offerings. I associated tape storage with the dawn of computing, and, equating cloud with cost-sensitivity, dismissed very high-end systems due to their higher price point.

As it turns out, I was wrong on both counts, as enterprises and service providers are finding use cases in which tape and the most bulletproof of storage systems are logical choices.

Tape for cloud? Are you for reel?
My perception that tape is a poor medium for cloud storage stems from two childhood memories. The first has me crawling around the university data center where my father worked in the early 70s; I remember tape spools spinning on the other side of the glass in that very cold room. Fast forward about twelve years to my second memory about tape: there I am, waiting restlessly for my Commodore 64 to load data from a cassette tape drive (this pre-dates floppy disks).

It’s no wonder I thought tape is slow and ill-suited for cloud. What I didn’t know was that tape had modernized in a big way, sporting vast improvements in performance and densities.

esg2Click to listen to ESG analyst, Steve Duplessie, talk about tape

That misconception out of the way, why is tape a fit – even a very good fit – for cloud storage? Here are two compelling reasons:

  • As much as 80 percent of enterprise data is not accessed after 90 days; cold data has no business on much more expensive HDD, let alone flash
  • Tape pricing allows enterprises and cloud services providers to deploy storage at $0.002 (yes, two tenths of a cent) per GB/month, a perfect match for storing cold data.

Beyond cost advantages, the efficiencies of the recently announced IBM TS4500 tape library make tape even more compelling. With 6 TB on each LTO7 cartridge, capacity per library can reach nearly 350 petabytes (PB), almost two PB per square foot of floorspace. With data (especially unstructured) growing at unprecedented rates and getting cold quickly, tape – whether on-premises or in the cloud – is a natural fit for both backup and cold data.

tape4                  ds8k4     

DS8880: Let’s welcome the new family members
Reinvention and innovation are key to staying ahead. And tape is not alone. The DS8000 family – the  veteran on the IBM enterprise storage roster – recently announced the arrival of “triplets.” Building on its solid DNA and reputation of being the bulletproof storage of choice for 18 of the top 20 banks worldwide, the new DS8880 family includes new options to drive more even value for customers.

Companies can now choose among two hybrid (i.e., flash and disk) systems and an all-flash version (the expected announcement of the latter is 1H 2016). The new offerings allow companies to better suit their system performance and latency to workloads, applications, and price points.


But why would anyone choose a DS8880 system for cloud storage? After all, this family is best known for storing mainframe data, and these aren’t typically running in the cloud, right? Often, the best way to understand things is to learn from the actions of customers:

  • A leading communications and IT services provider recently launched a new range of IaaS solutions targeted at finance, insurance, and utility companies, relying on IBM zEnterprise servers and DS8870 storage. By the way, the deployment includes tape systems for backup.
  • A large healthcare organization deployed a cloud for tracking the medication history for more than 23 million patients. This data is sensitive and mission critical, and the organization saves tens of millions of dollars annually thanks to their new cloud.

To summarize, there are cases that require the highest-end storage in cloud environments that include mainframes, and for those cases, DS8000 offerings are clear winners.

So next time you “look up in the sky” at cloud and storage options, don’t let ignorance or taking things for granted be your kryptonite. Understand that there are use cases – even very compelling ones – for tape and higher-end storage offerings that can help you go “up, up, and away” to the cloud.

Catch a wave with IBM and you’re sitting on top of the VMworld

The VMware universe has converged on San Francisco this week to learn, impart, network, and even have a little fun at VMworld 2015.* A Gold sponsor, IBM has put together a riveting roster of presentations, demonstrations, and breakout sessions — click to check out the activities and visit the booth to win a trip to Hawaii.


IBM and VMware have a deep, longstanding partnership. IBM is an elite VMware global OEM partner (IBM was actually VMware’s first OEM partner), and the companies meet frequently at every level, from executive on down.

With the breadth and depth of both companies’ portfolios, there are many exciting developments at any given time. So it’s no surprise that foot traffic at the booth is brisk, my sources informing of keen interest in VersaStack and IBM Spectrum Accelerate.

To get the lowdown on key integration points, watch theCUBE interview Eric Herzog, VP Marketing, IBM Storage; also, read Paula Koziol’s recent blog, a handy summary of the latest and greatest points of integration.


In this blog, I’d like to cover two of many noteworthy developments:

  • support of VVol by IBM Spectrum Virtualize
  • the self-service recover portal for IBM Spectrum Protect

IBM Spectrum Virtualize: Bringing VVol to Storage Near You
In February, I wrote about VMware vSphere Virtual Volumes (VVol) and how it addresses an acute problem faced by VMware administrators, application administrators, and storage managers (Tony Pearson provides depth in his recent guest blog on the VMware blog page).

So what’s new? At VMworld, there have been demos and presentations on how support of VVol by IBM Spectrum Virtualize — the software in SAN Volume Controller, the Storwize family, FlashSystem V9000, and VersaStack — is making a deep impact on the storage world in at least two ways:

  • Users of these storage systems can benefit from VVol 
  • Users of storage virtualized BEHIND IBM Spectrum Virtualize (and there are 250+ such systems) can benefit from VVol as well, even if those systems don’t support VVol natively. Now that’s powerful.

Users tap into VVol functionality with IBM Spectrum Control Base Edition. The latter consolidates VMware integration across IBM Storage (DS8000, XIV, the Storwize family, FlashSystem, Spectrum Accelerate, etc.) — meaning only one component is required to support VMware functionality for any IBM storage platform.

Check out the IBM Knowledge Center to learn more about VVol implementation.

IBM Spectrum Protect: Self-service portal for simple recovery
Another way that IBM Storage is simplifying the lives of administrators is with a self-service recovery option for IBM Spectrum Protect.

With the new self-service portal, users of VMware and IBM Spectrum Protect can recover files easily and quickly. Simply point to a URL, enter the portal, and choose the recovery point and files. The new portal eliminates phone calls, emails, and other irksome tasks, increasing productivity for everyone involved.


Self-service portal for VMware environments

To read the recently published analyst paper about the benefits of IBM Spectrum Protect in virtual environments, click on the thumbnail below.

esg paperSurfing data oceans
With these two integration points, among so many others, VMware and IBM Storage continue their cadence of integration, enabling customers to “surf” the waves of their data oceans and dramatically reduce the complexity of IT operations. Given that virtual server and storage infrastructure are the predominant deployment methods for hybrid cloud, customers of IBM and VMware are uniquely positioned to leverage our cooperation and rapidly reap business results along their virtualization and cloud journey.

* I, alas, am missing the North America event and will be catching the European event in Barcelona in a few weeks.

Fly to the Cloud with IBM Spectrum Storage

I concluded my last blog by emphasizing that software defined storage (SDS) offers companies different ways to deploy storage: as software, as a purpose-built appliance, and on a cloud. In this blog, I’ll focus on the last option – the ability to procure and consume storage services in a rapid, agile way using a public cloud.

Being software defined, IBM Spectrum Storage offerings can naturally be deployed in the cloud. Cloud-based storage provides many advantages, including the ability to store and manage data without having to procure, “house,” and manage physical hardware.

Two products that truly demonstrate these SDS benefits are IBM Spectrum Control Storage Insights and IBM Spectrum Accelerate. The first delivers storage efficiencies through a unique combination of analytics and management; the second allows companies to rapidly deploy Tier 1 storage with striking simplicity.

IBM Spectrum Control Storage Insights 
People and data are an organization’s most important assets. To be blunt, though, most companies are more adept at managing headcount than they are at managing data. In fact, IBM studies show that typical capacity utilization rates are around 50%.¹ And just as HR wouldn’t accept “employee utilization” of 50%, IT organizations shouldn’t accept poor storage utilization rates.

That’s where IBM Spectrum Control Storage Insights can help. It addresses a wide range of storage inefficiencies head on. This new software-as-a-service offering runs on SoftLayer, using analytics developed by IBM Research; enabling companies to better understand their storage situation; and, ultimately, engendering a tight, efficient data storage outfit. 

Organizations can benefit from Storage Insights by:

  • Monitoring capacity and performance of on-premises storage (IBM Storage and over 250 non-IBM storage systems)
  • Reclaiming unused storage to improve utilization and defer capacity purchases
  • Optimizing data placement based on usage patterns to help lower storage costs by 50% per GB, while increasing performance
  • Deploying powerful analytics in as little as five minutes and gaining actionable insights within 30 minutes

Learn more about Storage Insights

IBM Spectrum Accelerate
Based on the XIV Storage System software stack — decoupled from the XIV “box” for use on standard x86 servers — IBM Spectrum Accelerate can also be deployed on the cloud.  

This offering has been generally available since March 2015, and it’s exciting to witness how companies have been embracing it. Earlier this month, Silverpop, a cloud-based digital marketing company, discussed how it is relying on IBM Spectrum Accelerate to store its Oracle data (video in the thumbnail below).

During the candid 20-minute dialogue, Paul Rafferty, SaaS Infrastructure Architecture Program Director at Silverpop, provided his insights on IBM Spectrum Accelerate. He discussed how his company is:

  • Moving 250 TB of Oracle data from on-premises storage to the SoftLayer cloud
  • Using IBM Spectrum Accelerate for Tier 1 storage 
  • Benefiting from consistent high performance and high end features
  • Starting small and adding nodes as-needed

Learn more about IBM Spectrum Accelerate

Board the Cloud with IBM Spectrum Storage
Cloud is impacting IT – storage included – in a fundamental way. To stay ahead of the curve, companies should explore and leverage the efficiencies and agility imparted by the cloud-based offerings such as Storage Insights and IBM Spectrum Accelerate. 

1. Average of individual customer Analysis Engine Reports produced by IBM using Butterfly Software

My Right Elbow and the Healthcare Data Tsunami

Six years ago this week, I learned a new word: olecranon, the medical term for what most of us call an elbow. On a wonderfully electric June evening, I was in the zone at my local skatepark – so much so that I got over-zealous and, yes, over-confident. The result: I sped into a 50-50 grind, fell, and shattered my right olecranon (note the gap between my elbow tip and the bone chip).

Right Elbow

So what does my elbow have to do with our favorite topic, data storage? Well, it turns out that this X-ray and the rest of the data I produced during that glorious summer – which included repeated infections and multiple hospitalizations – were my small contribution to the information deluge in healthcare.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, the average individual generates more than one million gigabytes of health-related data – from electronic medical records and images, but increasingly from new connected devices, monitors, sensors and the like. Boy does that make sense to me now. 

Healthcare, Cloud, and IBM Spectrum Storage

At IBM, we’ve noted how data is growing and moving faster than healthcare organizations can absorb it. We’ve witnessed how distruptors across the healthcare segment spectrum – from insurance to hospitals to research facilities – are building clouds with IBM Spectrum Storage to transform their business, drive efficiencies, and most importantly save lives.

We’ve demonstrated how IBM “fuels” the healthcare cloud by partnering with organizations to build ultra-modern infrastructure platforms that enable innovation and a competitive edge. Here are but a few examples (click on the thumbnails to learn more):

  • TWNTime Warner Navisite: this managed services provider relies on a multi-petabyte XIV Storage deployment (AKA IBM Spectrum Accelerate running as storage appliances), finding value in XIV predictable performance and built-in encryption for HIPAA compliance.
  • PrudentialPrudential: building a cloud using IBM Spectrum Virtualize and IBM Spectrum Accelerate as appliances, Prudential cut dollars per IOPS by 75%, dollars per GB by 50%, and has zero storage administrators for routine operations.
  • UPMCUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical Center: this very large medical institution deployed IBM Spectrum Storage offerings, avoiding $40 million in storage costs and foregoing storage capacity additions for 5 quarters
  • HutchinsonHutchinson Regional Medical Center: the Kansas-based organization uses IBM Spectrum Protect in a hybrid cloud, enjoying 98.7% backup success and a 45% reduction in storage capacity.


IBM Spectrum Storage: Storage Your Way
A few weeks ago at Edge 2015, Jamie Thomas – General Manager, Storage and Software Defined – discussed just how these companies and others are using IBM Storage – especially the IBM Spectrum Storage family – to build robust clouds that keep them ahead of the competition.


A key takeaway from Jamie’s session is that companies are choosing different ways to consume storage – as an appliance (e.g., XIV Storage at Prudential and Timer Warner Navisite), a service on a cloud (e.g., cloud provider customers), and as software (e.g., Hutchinson Medical Center and Prudential). I wrote about the flexibility to deploy “Storage Your Way” when we announced IBM Spectrum Accelerate, and it  is proving to be a well-liked attribute of this product family.

To sum up: like it or not, we are all contributing to the data tsunami, and IBM is helping companies across the healthcare spectrum tame the torrent of information we are creating. By providing healthcare players an ability to efficiently store, analyze, and use data at the right time, IBM Storage allows physicians to make wise decisions that not only enhance our health and wellness…they can potentially save our lives.

Ah…and if you’re wondering…I now wear elbow pads when I skate and hope to keep my health data generation to a minimum for many, many years to come.

March Madness, IBM Storage Style

Growing up in Los Angeles during the post-Wooden years and with my parents being UCLA alumni, it’s only natural that I love this time of year, the NCAA tournament, and March Madness. What basketball fan doesn’t appreciate the month-long revelry, rivalries, grit, and talent on display – a joy to behold.

So what exactly does college basketball have to do with the world of storage? The answer is that since mid-February, we’ve been awash with awesome events at IBM Storage, and we’ve been enjoying an extended March Madness of our own. Let me share a few highlights with you:

The Sweet Six
First, IBM announced the birth of Spectrum Storage, a new family of software defined storage offerings. This comprehensive set of six products is designed to give customers choice and flexibility as they deploy storage, especially in cloud environments.

Spectrum Storage products can operate alone and in tandem. Cloud is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and Spectrum Storage draws out maximum value from traditional infrastructure, while simultaneously enabling companies to set up storage fit for the cloud era. This allows companies to proceed on their cloud journey at their own speed, and to choose storage offerings that suit them best.

GA of Spectrum Accelerate
Working in the center of the XIV “universe,” I had the great fortune of witnessing true development magic over the last few quarters. One of the first to execute on the innovative, user-centric IBM Design Thinking approach, the inimitable Spectrum Accelerate development team “unboxed” the XIV software stack from the XIV Storage System — in a very short time frame.

Thus was born Spectrum Accelerate – a new software defined storage offering agility, improved economics, and the freedom to:

  • place data on-premises, off-premises in the public cloud, in a remote data center and/or in a remote office
  • deploy as an integrated appliance (aka the IBM XIV Storage System) and/or on x86 servers and/or as a cloud service
  • manage all data, whether stored on XIV Storage or Spectrum Accelerate, via one pane of glass

: the Spectrum Support team has gone social. Hit them up!
YouTube Channel: watch demos and how-to clips
Technical Forum: post questions and get answers from IBMers and other clients
External Knowledge Base: avoid/fix/workaround known issues

The Great White North in Fe-brrrr-uary
Just as we announced the Spectrum Storage family, my teammates and I headed to Canada to talk with customers and business partners about how IBM Storage can help drive maximal value from data, especially with the “new addition to our family,” i.e., Spectrum Storage.

Though frigid outside, the audience warmed up quickly to Spectrum Storage. Attendees saw the advantages of leveraging under-utilized or dedicated hardware – whether in the data center or in a remote offices – with Spectrum Scale and Spectrum Accelerate. The deployment flexibility and options provided by Spectrum Storage also piqued their interest.

Warm regards to still chilly Canada and a shout out to our hosts: Jeff, Lynn, and Michelle.
These are select highlights from our February and March Madness. Stay tuned – there’s lots more in store during the months to come.