IBM Edge2015 – Key Themes and what’s new in IBM Storage

By Jane Clabby, Clabby Analytics

The theme of IBM’s Edge2015 conference in Las Vegas last week was “The Infrastructure Innovation Conference”. While Edge originated as the company’s storage-focused event, this year the conference highlighted all IBM’s infrastructure components: IBM System Storage, IBM Power Systems, IBM z Systems and IBM Middleware. With 6000 attendees, Edge 2015 included both a technical track and an executive track. Analysts attended a full day of Executive Edge, as well as 2 half-days specifically designed for us. In this review, I’ll focus on overall Executive Edge messages and the role of IBM Storage in the company’s strategic direction.

Executive Edge Keynote

The conference reinforced the importance of IBM infrastructure as the foundation for Big Data and analytics, mobile and social initiatives, and hybrid cloud. IBM’s hybrid cloud links systems of engagement (mobile/social), systems of record (back-end transactional systems), and systems of insight (analytics) to support what the company calls “Digital Transformation.” The goal of these efforts is to provide real-time actionable insights to customers in a wide range of industries, including retail, financial services and healthcare.

In his keynote, “Digital Transformation and the Big Breakthrough”, Tom Rosamilia, SVP IBM Systems, shared several interesting statistics:

  • Facebook has over 1 Billion users
  • 75% of cars will be Wi-Fi enabled by 2020
  • By 2017, 7 of 10 retailers will use local GPS for transacting business
  • 82% of millennials use mobile banking
  • Each mobile transaction can trigger up to 100 new system interactions
  • 90% of today’s data isn’t analyzed

As the Internet of Things (IoT) proliferates and social and mobile usage accelerates, making Big Data even bigger, IBM plans to leverage its strength in hybrid cloud and Big Data and analytics to help businesses gain competitive advantage. The company provided many customer examples throughout the conference, including these from the keynote:

  • Travelport, a global travel commerce platform, processed 120 million tickets last year, generating 900 billion system messages in 170 countries. From a mobile front-end, customers use IBM’s hybrid cloud to link to back-end System z transactional systems for self-enabling book anytime/anywhere travel.
  • University of Pennsylvania Medical Center (UPMC) Healthcare projects storage requirements of 21 PB by the end of 2015. Despite that, by using IBM’s real-time compression, they have increased utilization so that no new storage purchases have been required in the past 15 months.
  • Centerpoint Energy, a Fortune 500 electric and natural gas utility, collects data from 2.5 million intelligent meters using IBM infrastructure and data analytics to analyze devices for proactive maintenance to improve safety and customer satisfaction.

IBM Storage

IBM recently combined its storage systems and related software into a single organization, led by Jamie Thomas, GM, IBM Storage and Software Defined Systems. The goal of this reorganization was to closely align IBM’s broad range of storage solutions, to invest in high-growth areas such as Flash and software defined storage (SDS), and to transform the company’s go-to-market strategy.

As part of this effort, the software portfolio is joined under a new “Spectrum” brand and the company has deployed a new team of over 350 salespeople. The three tenets of IBM’s storage strategy are: (1) Flash; (2) SDS; and, (3) virtualization. So far, IBM’s tri-fold storage strategy appears to be working: IDC has named IBM #1 in shipments of Flash, SDS, Tape and High-End Mainframe storage.

Here is an overview of recent IBM storage announcements (with IBM claims):

Flash

  • IBM FlashSystem V9000 is all-flash enterprise storage solution including IBM FlashCore technology (hardware-accelerated I/O) offering the benefits of SDS including Real-time Compression (RTC), dynamic tiering, thin provisioning, snapshots, cloning, replication, data copy services and high-availability configurations at a cost as low as $2/GB with IBM’s Tier 1 guarantee.
  • IBM FlashSystem 900 (also with IBM FlashCore technology) is designed to lower operating costs and increase the efficiency of IT infrastructure by using much less power and space than traditional hard disk drive (HDD) and solid-state disk (SSD) solutions.

Spectrum Family

    • IBM Spectrum Accelerate is a software-only version of XIV technology that helps speed data delivery supporting scale-up and scale-out systems using the high-performance grid architecture of XIV. The result is a flexible, agile, software-only configuration that can take advantage of and also significantly benefit commodity storage hardware. IBM XIV solutions are now available as software-only, as an appliance and will become available as-a-service on IBM SoftLayer later this year.
    • IBM Spectrum Control Storage Insight is a data management-as-a- service solution available on the IBM SoftLayer cloud. It provides storage and data reporting for key insights into storage usage for capacity planning, tiering decisions, and to easily identify underutilized storage. The administrator can quickly and easily look at storage assets and analyze storage performance in the context of applications over time. The solution is designed for mid-market customers who want to avoid the costly and time-consuming deployment of an on premises solution, and are managing storage with generalists rather than specifically trained storage experts. IBM says the solution can be deployed in 30 minutes or less on IBM SoftLayer and can provide up to a 50% reduction in the cost of storage.
  • IBM Big Storage Technology provides cloud-based storage archive services for customers who require quick and easy, or occasional access to very large data archives. The solution is available in preview and offers a multi-tier storage environment with automated data placement across IBM SoftLayer, disk and/or a tape library – all in the same global namespace – and managed by IBM Spectrum Scale or IBM Spectrum Archive. The solution supports both file and object storage via standard POSIX and Swift interfaces.

 

  • Multi-Cloud storage gateway capabilities will be a component of selected IBM storage offerings and will enable data to be replicated to multiple IBM and non-IBM object stores and public clouds, including IBM SoftLayer, Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure and others. The gateway software will use analytics-driven optimization to enable IBM SoftLayer and other public cloud storage providers to act as another tier of storage.

 

Integrated Infrastructure

  • Cisco VersaStack, targeted to channel partners, is a validated converged infrastructure design that combines IBM Storwize V7000 Unified and Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS). Like other competitive offerings (EMC VSPEX, for example) it includes server hardware, a storage system, networking equipment, and management software all integrated into a single platform. IBM Storage is focused on developing the relationship with Cisco, so stay tuned for future joint offerings.

Enhancements

  • DS 8870 mainframe storage enhancements include improved GUI and support for RESTful APIs.
  • XIV Gen 3 Enhancements including support for RTC, enabling the system to handle up to 400% more data with little or no application impact. IBM will include a compression guarantee of up to 5-to-1 data reduction. Spectrum Accelerate will include RTC in a future release.

IBM Storage Customer Examples

  • Royal Caribbean uses IBM Storwize, IBM Spectrum Virtualize, and IBM Spectrum Control for data storage and management. The common management interface reduces training times and increases productivity, allowing Royal Caribbean to manage 3.6TB of storage with a 4-person IT team. The storage infrastructure supports customer data collection and analytics before, during and after the cruise for on-going personalized marketing promotions.
  • Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) collects research data from energy particle accelerators and photon science with requirements for up 100PB of storage per year. By using IBM Spectrum Scale, DESY can minimize the impact of slow network speeds to optimize performance.
  • Etisalat, a leading UAE-based telecommunications company, has used IBM Flash with their fraud detection analytics application and improved performance by 37x.

Summary Observations

As always, IBM Edge 2015 was packed with lots of great information and customer success stories that demonstrate how IBM technology is being used and what tangible benefits are being derived. Since IBM Storage with Power Systems, z Systems and middleware were all combined in one event, I had the opportunity to learn how the products work together.

I’m sure this was beneficial to customers too. It was easy to see the individual strengths of IBM’s infrastructure components, but also the synergies between them that enable customers to link systems of engagement, systems of record and systems of insight across a common platform. This is a clear strength of IBM as they seek to differentiate themselves from competitors in the cloud and Big Data analytics markets.

From a storage perspective, I was interested to see how the rebranding of the Spectrum family is progressing. Although this effort is fairly new (February), I was pleased to see that all the IBM representatives and even most of the customers used the new names in presentations, panel discussions, and on the demo floor. I believe that the rebranding mirrors fundamental organizational changes and provides IBM’s software-defined storage with a distinct identity in the market that will help IBM maintain its #1 position.

Finally, one of my favorite customer stories was delivered by Ron Perry, CEO of Radixx, an online airline reservation system. He described his company’s digital transformation by using a quote from the famous hockey player Wayne Gretsky; “You go where the puck is going to be.” Based on this thinking, Perry is moving his business to a hybrid cloud model by replacing his x86’s with a z System for his “system of record” and a client-facing portal on the IBM SoftLayer Cloud for his “system of engagement.”

Perry chose System z because downtime can cost him as much as $1M/hr. With z Systems, redundancy eliminates downtime, provides a secure closed environment (“mainframes don’t get hacked”), and ensures predictable performance and scalability – while IBM SoftLayer provides the elasticity that can handle peak demands. As a result, Perry expects his “look to book” ratio to increase significantly and also deliver a 35% reduction in TCO.

After assimilating what I have learned in two days at IBM Edge 2015, I like what I heard. I believe IBM is “Going where the puck is going to be”, or as Doug Brown, VP Marketing, IBM Systems phrased it, “IBM is future-made.”

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