What's Behind IBM's Surge in Storage?

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2010-04-23

What's Behind IBM's Surge in Storage?

IBM's storage business is on a roll. IBM this week reported 11 percent year-over-year revenue growth for its storage products in the first quarter of 2010. That followed a final quarter of 2009 that saw IBM outperform EMC and Hewlett-Packard and, according to IDC, seize the No. 2 position in the global market. As if to celebrate the momentum, IBM also this week announced new storage products designed to reduce the cost and complexity of storing vast amounts of data while making it easier for clients to apply analytics and gain insight from the data. eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft spoke with Brian Truskowski, general manager for storage in IBM's Systems and Technology Group, about the factors driving IBM's surge in storage.

Why is storage a big deal for businesses and governments these days?

Truskowski: Data is flowing in from everywhere and straining systems in enterprises of all sizes.  IDC says the world's data already exceeds available storage space-and demand for storage capacity is growing nearly 60 percent a year. Businesses are struggling with the volume and evolving nature of the data they're already collecting. They're under huge pressure to turn this data into insight, and they're wrestling with how they're going to store and secure it all. According to Forrester, spending for storage will have the fastest growth in 2010 in the hardware segment.

Companies and governments are making capital investments to address three main challenges: cutting storage costs and making more efficient and reliable use of data; increasing capacity to store data on a massive scale; and categorizing and prioritizing data to gain insight through analytics. This is why IBM has invested billions over the last few years in storage innovations such as super-efficient grid-based storage arrays such as XIV, data deduplication for the elimination of redundant data copies, scale-out storage to support unstructured file-based data growth, and the Easy Tiering of data to prioritize data for workloads like real-time analytics to gain new insights.

Would you please summarize IBM's position in the storage market?

As 2009 began, IBM was tied for second place in the storage market. By the end of the year, IBM had pulled ahead of HP to take a clear second spot. IBM also is now the No. 1 storage vendor in China, with 23 percent of the external disk share, and in India, with 31 percent. IBM is either No. 1 or No. 2 in the three main storage segments-tape, disk and storage software-and has been growing in all three. IBM reported first-quarter earnings this week, and storage revenue grew 11 percent year to year. We reported that disk revenue grew 18 percent and gained share, with double-digit growth in enterprise, midrange and low-end products.

What accounts for the growth?

In a simple word: innovation. Helping clients address this data conundrum, IBM's strategy is provide clients with the innovative products and tools they need for the intelligent management and placement of information without adding complexity. We're investing both through acquisitions and organic development to drive this innovation in key storage technologies across software and hardware. A particularly key weapon for us has been our acquisition of XIV, a high-end, disk storage system with a virtualized grid architecture designed to eliminate the complexity of storage administration. A lot of our clients say XIV is the easiest storage system they've ever installed and managed. IBM added more than 400 new storage customers to our client list based on their choice of the XIV storage platform in 2009, and we are off to a great start in the first quarter of 2010 with an additional 75 new IBM storage clients. We're also added deduplication capabilities to the IBM Storage solution set through our acquisition two years ago of Diligent Technologies. So our acquisitions are performing very well as we have ramped their development and sales capacity to fuel growth.

Additionally, we are making multimillion-dollar development investments in high-end file storage, archiving solutions, disk virtualization and tape density to continue to drive IBM leadership. Our recent achievement of a world record in areal data density on linear magnetic tape-25 billion bits on a single cartridge-is a great example of leveraging IBM research capabilities to break through barriers.

Importance of IBMs New Storage Wares


Why are the new products you announced this week important?

The new products are part of IBM's overall strategy to release a range of new workload-optimized systems in 2010. The new storage products are designed to reduce the cost and complexity of storing vast amounts of data while making it easier for clients to apply analytics and gain insight from the data. This is what clients want-they are looking for storage technology that will improve efficiency and reduce costs, increase capacity and intelligently place the data where it can perform the best for workloads like real-time analytics, database or transaction processing.

We announced this industry-first capability in IBM's DS8700 disk storage system. Working again with IBM Research, we created a set of algorithms that perform this intelligent placement of data in an easy and very economical approach. We call this IBM's System Storage Easy Tier feature. Easy Tier learns about a client's application data patterns over a short period of time and then begins to place the "hot" data on the fastest storage and the "cold" data on the slower and less expensive storage. It continuously learns, intelligently placing data as the application data patterns change over time. All this is done automatically, and we have proven it can increase throughput by 300 percent. Let's say it's approaching end of month and a client needs ready access to purchasing trends to feed the business analytics, with many organizations accessing and updating the same data-this "hot" data would be placed in the fastest storage devices to maximize responsiveness and performance. Similarly, let's say that a file hasn't been touched in months but is still needed to meet government regulations such as HIPAA-this "cold" data would get placed on slower, more economical storage and then could ultimately be placed out on tape for the best long-term economical archival solution.

Along these lines, we also announced new solutions for storing unstructured retention data. One of them, the LTO Ultrium format, is an open tape storage technology that can help dramatically lower energy consumption and reduce storage media costs up to 10 times. The other, the IBM Long Term File System, provides a simpler way to provide file system access to the very large data archives created by unstructured data. The Long Term File System is especially well-suited for the growing storage needs of industries that generate digital media such as media and entertainment, medical, and digital surveillance. We also announced we're adding a "many-to-one" replication feature to our ProtecTIER deduplication technology that allows multiple data centers or remote offices to replicate backup data to a central location.  

Finally, we introduced our latest XIV Storage System, doubling the storage capacity of the system while continuing to dramatically lower clients' operational costs through improvements in energy efficiency. 

These innovative products are rooted in IBM's ability to help clients maneuver through the life cycle of data management, focused in three areas: efficiency, data growth and delivering competitive advantages to our clients

What are some examples of how your clients are using IBM storage?

The University of Heidelberg is using our SoNAS (Scale Out Network Attached Storage) to support their BioQuant research center, which is dedicated to modeling the extreme complexity of life and is expected to generate up to 12 petabytes of data and more than 500 million files. Thought Equity Motion makes news, sports, entertainment and creative footage accessible to content producers and digital channels. It beta tested the IBM Long Term File System and found that it could lower the company's storage costs significantly. Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia was generating a terabyte of new data per month, backing up the same data repeatedly and generating an exponential number of copies of the same things. They implemented IBM deduplication technology and slashed their physical storage by 90 percent. Welch's is using XIV to better forecast expected sales of its grape juices and jellies while lowering storage costs. Welch's is a well-known brand, but it's actually a small company owned by family farmers, so it's essential to keep technology costs down.

How do you leverage the rest of IBM?

It all starts with leveraging IBM's Research capabilities to create real breakthroughs in the storage industry; next we leverage IBM's Systems and Software stacks through solution integration and optimization with a focus on delivering offerings that are targeted at client's workload challenges; and finally we leverage IBM's Global Technology Services to provide clients with the right service based offerings to help them implement, manage and monitor their IBM storage whether it be as part of their own infrastructure, managed by IBM or in the cloud. Of course, IBM is always ready to help clients finance their acquisition of storage as well through our Global Financing capabilities. So I'd say that IBM has truly integrated itself for client's benefit, enabling them to decide how they want to consume hardware plus software plus services.  

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