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!


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.

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.