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.

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.

Ready or Not, Here Comes Flash

flash lightning new yorkOne of the nice things about being a marketer is that every so often, I have an opportunity to attend industry conferences. These events afford a golden opportunity to take (an admittedly unscientific) snapshot of the market resulting from conversations with customers, vendors, and analysts.

Last week, I had such an opportunity when I attended TechTarget StorageDecisions. Given the mid-town Manhattan venue, there was a preponderance of representatives from financial institutions but also from aerospace, retail, healthcare, and insurance companies.

Flash is in the house

So what was my key takeaway? I was most impressed by the interest in all flash arrays. The lion’s share of storage practitioners at the event understood the benefits of moving to flash-based storage. They were aware that we have reached the tipping point where the benefits and performance of flash – especially for workloads that require extremely high speed and low latency – can be harvested at costs that rival those of high-end disk systems.

Beyond this, a good number of attendees were scratching under the surface to better understand available flash systems.  Some booth visitors asked about the innards: is it a straightforward packaging of solid state disk (SSD) or a more powerful, versatile design based on flash chips that is serviceable and extensible. They also inquired about the type of flash technology utilized (MLC, eMLC, etc.).

The IBM booth had the FlashSystem V840 on display, and visitors exhibited a keen interest in its attractive price point and low power consumption coupled with capabilities such as mirroring, virtualization, compression, capacity (up to 1.6 PB), and of course high performance (up to  2.5 million IOPS at 200 microsecond latency).

Not a flash in the pan

I had a chance to catch up with Randy Kerns of Evaluator Group and get his take: “flash is rapidly replacing disk as primary storage…and, by 2016, the majority (>50%) of customer acquisitions for primary storage will be all flash storage systems.” By the way, Gartner, which named IBM the market leader in flash storage solid state arrays (SSA) with 25% market share, agrees that flash storage will see tremendous growth, claiming that the SSA opportunity will grow approximately five times in revenue from 2014-2017.

To sum it up, the event last week demonstrated to me that flash-based storage is past the early adopter stage; that it is moving steadily into data centers; and that customers are gaining a good understanding of its economic and performance benefits. If you are a storage professional and are not actively exploring flash now, your plane is about to depart; your competitor is probably in the sleeve or on board, and you should be too.

Learn about IBM FlashSystem V840:

A Blog is Born

World, meet Datascopes.  Datascopes, meet the world.

Right. Introductions and social niceties out of the way, you are no doubt asking yourself three questions:

  • Just what is Datascopes?
  • Why will I find it interesting?
  • Which you will most probably follow with why do I need another blog in my life?

I’ll be curt: Datascopes is a blog devoted to discussing technology news and issues du jour, with a special focus on data storage and storage products brought to market by IBM.

Why will you find this blog of interest? My goal is to provide information and stimulate discussions that will be of value to those of you who – like me – spend most waking hours immersed in the worlds of technology and storage.

As for justifying the need for yet another blog… yes, I fully identify with the “I really don’t have time to read another blog.” I’ve therefore set out to write relatively short blogs. In fact, similar to Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule, I’ve devised a 4-8-8 rule for my blogs: at most there will be – four screen scrolls; eight hyperlinks; and no more than eight minutes of reading.

Finally, a disclaimer: I am employed by IBM, and so naturally, I will be inclined to discuss IBM storage products and technologies. This is a good thing for a few reasons, two of which I’ll mention:

  • We have a great roster of storage offerings which offer unique value to our customers
  • I’m a marketer focused on how technology brings business value to customers

The bottom line is you’ll hear about how technology can result in positive impact on business and much less on things like speeds and feeds.

So 4-8-8, right? Off we go! I’m hopeful that you find my blog useful and look forward to engaging with you soon.