IBM Aiming SSDs, New Tools at 'Smart Data Placement'

IBM is now offering SSDs as an option in its latest Power Systems servers, and it has launched a new set of "smart" software tools to optimize SSDs used to run its DB2 database.

IBM is placing increased emphasis on the emerging solid-state server, storage, and software sector of the data center.
As of May 21 it is now offering SSDs as an option in its latest Power Systems servers. It also has launched a new set of "smart" software tools to optimize SSDs used to run its DB2 database in servers and in correlation with storage arrays.
Solid state drives, still significantly more expensive than hard disk drives but with a pricing model that is slowly coming down, use only about half as much electricity and are capable of producing I/O response rates 50 to 100 times faster than conventional HHDs.
Hard disk drives are often run at 40 percent or less of their storage capacity to help maintain consistent performance; SSDs on Power Systems and other servers can be run up to 80 or 90 percent storage capacity with little or no effect on performance.
IBM said the new SSDs and the acompanying software tools will be supported on all Power6 enterprise systems, including blades.
Designed for mixed HHD, SSD shops
The new software tool package is designed to optimize a mixture of a system's SSDs and regular hard drives for specific workloads.
"The concept we're going for is called 'smart data placement,' " Charlie Andrews, IBM director of dynamic infrastructure, told eWEEK. "It's not like a feature, per se, but our strategy. Smart data placement is a big piece of that strategy.
"Solid-state devices are an important technology, but in the near term, they are not going to be replacing all hard drives. There are vendors out there who believe that in relatively short order, they will, in large measure, displace hard drives. We're not there yet."
Prices for solid-state drives are coming down, Andrews said, but they're still expensive.
"What's important is that when you spend the money -- and on a capacity basis, SSDs are more expensive -- what you need is to make sure that you get the value of what you spend," Andrews said. "That's what this is all about."
IBM's solid-state optimization software lineup includes a suite of software tools that enable customers to migrate, monitor and dynamically place data on SSDs to maximize value, Andrews said. This approach assumes that most users will have a hybrid environment with both SSDs and traditional disks.
For example, IBM's new Data Facility Storage Management Subsystem provides for targeted data placement for high-transaction workloads on SSDs -- taking advantage of their high I/O performance -- in sIBM zSeries and DS8000 environment.
In Power systems, IBM provides SSD Data Balancer software tools that enable a system administrator to move frequently accessed data to SSDs, while moving cold, less-frequently accessed data to slower, cheaper SATA or SAN hard drives.
SATA-style SSDs also an option
IBM also added the option of new SATA-style SSDs to its System x lineup, Andrews said. The BladeCenter product line was updated with a new 2.1-watt, 50GB SSD in a 2.5-inch disk package.
A 50GB SSD drive now is available in either a 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch form factor for blades and System x rack and tower servers.
All the SSDs support Windows, Linux, and ESX Server, VMware's hypervisor.
Finally, IBM now has SSD options for System Storage DS8000 product line. SSDs in storage arrays significantly decrease back-end drive response times -- a traditional headache for storage administrators.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...