IBM Sees Software-Defined Storage as Taming Data Deluge

Software-defined storage is driven by the data explosion, and one of the drivers of the data explosion is the Internet of things.

Software-defined storage

LAS VEGAS--Hewlett-Packard's Oct. 5 announcement that it intends to split into two independent companies--one for hardware, one for software and services--in order to survive in the new-gen economy is a clear indicator of the serious issues facing older-line IT companies.

Newer, smaller and more agile companies, specializing in specific corners of the IT business, are carving out their own software and hardware market niches, and this is taking its toll on the all-purpose mothership companies.

But the veterans will not give up without a fight anytime soon. They also have the bank roll, shareholders and lists of installed users to back them up. It's a matter of how well they can pivot to provide new-gen value; they may be a bit slower to do it, but experience counts for an awful lot in this business.

IBM has a head start on HP, having sold its PC and server businesses to Lenovo. But it hasn't sold its storage or networking franchises--software and hardware, disk and digital tape machines--and will not do so. Why? Because there's too much business potential in storing the data from the proliferation of devices doing cloud computing, analytics, mobile applications and social media.

Everything has to be stored somewhere, whether it's in a handheld device, an on-premises storage array, a laptop, a desktop machine or in huge data lakes in the cloud. All this mostly unstructured data needs a physical home, and IBM intends to remain among the leaders in providing those homes.

Simple Strategy: Software-Defined Storage

Jamie Thomas, IBM's general manager of Storage and Software Defined Systems, described Big Blue's strategy in one simple term: software-defined storage. The company backed this up Oct. 6 by introducing a new product called IBM Elastic Storage Server, an integrated software-defined storage appliance that combines POWER8 with storage software code named Elastic Storage.

The new storage device is loaded with business intelligence that identifies file types, does compression and deduplication and automates the flow of data from ingestion to storage to outflow to another location.

"One of the real drivers of software-defined storage is the data explosion, and one of the drivers of the data explosion is the Internet of things," Thomas told eWEEK. "The instrumentation of everything around us is also generating more data. And there's a lot you can do with that intelligence, depending upon the industry you're in."

Last May, IBM launched its new SDS software that enables organizations to access any data from any device and from anywhere in the world. It also unveiled advances in its Storwize, XIV, tape library and Flash storage products can optimize storage for large-scale cloud deployments through virtualization, real-time compression, easy-tiering and mirroring, and provide clients fast access to information.

New Products to Fit the Strategy

The company is following up now by adding several new products, such as the Elastic Storage Server, and then taking the message to the marketplace. That's what it did this week at IBM Enterprise, which attracted 3,500 attendees to the Venetian resort here from all over the world.

"We're at an inflection point around storage," Thomas said. "The data explosion is driving clients to seriously consider different storage delivery mechanisms to serve their needs. This includes flexibility of consumption, being able to understand data-placement strategy over time and have different options. That's where you see data and the evolution of cloud models that have a combinatorial effect that clients have to worry about."

For example, Thomas produced some data points researched by the company that bear out her assertions. These are the four major drivers of new-gen IT in the 21st century and the type of data they are producing:

--Big data and analytics: 2,500 petabytes of big data are being generated every day
--Mobile: 95 percent of mobile traffic is data
--Social networking: 500 million tweets a day; 7 million apps and Websites are integrated with Facebook
--Cloud: 80% of new applications will include cloud delivery or deployment.

And we're talking about both data and metadata. All that content has to go somewhere, and IBM figures it may as well go into an Elastic Storage appliance, a Storwize unit or a digital tape machine.

"IT storage is driven by these shifts that we're talking about, and we think that there's enormous opportunity," Thomas said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...