IBM Spectrum Virtualize – Traditional SAN Storage at Twice the Efficiency

There’s a great deal of buzz these days around newer cloud, mobile, social, analytic and Big Data workloads whose storage requirements are causing IT managers to re-think storage infrastructure. But what about the more traditional workloads like transaction systems, email, supply chain, HR, and virtual servers? According to the most recent IDC Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker , IT managers continue to spend more on traditional SAN storage – the infrastructure of choice for these workloads – than on NAS, IP SAN and direct attach arrays combined. With over half of the worldwide spend on external storage in play, there’s a lot of efficiency to be gained. IBM Spectrum Virtualize is software defined storage that can deliver twice the efficiency on existing SAN infrastructure.

It can be argued that IBM Spectrum Virtualize is the product that gave birth to the software defined storage movement. I started working with this product back in 2003 (at the time it was called IBM SAN Volume Controller) before the term Software Defined Storage had been coined. A couple years ago as folks were starting to talk about the concept of software defined, I posed a mostly rhetorical question Has IBM created a software-defined storage platform? IBM Spectrum Virtualize embodies the concept and is a cornerstone of the IBM Spectrum Storage software defined family.

IBM Spectrum Virtualize servicesIn every geography of the world, across every industry and size of enterprise, there are IT managers who have built SAN storage infrastructures with EMC, or HP, or Hitachi, or IBM, or any of a number of other vendors, but who have also software defined those infrastructures with IBM Spectrum Virtualize and are enjoying extraordinary benefits. It’s really not very complicated to understand where the savings come from.

When you choose to software define your SAN infrastructure with IBM Spectrum Virtualize:

  • You save money on software licensing costs. SAN storage vendors often charge you for advanced capabilities like snapshot, replication, tiering, and even device drivers. Choosing to software define means you don’t need to pay for these with your SAN storage.
  • You pack more data onto the physical disks you own. SAN disk arrays have boundaries. They are individually wrapped in sheet metal meaning workloads attached to one array can run out of space while workloads attached to another can have an over abundance of capacity. Choosing to software define means the boundaries disappear. Capacity is pooled together and overall utilization is improved. What’s more, IBM Spectrum Virtualize compresses data in real time allowing you to pack as much as 5x the data in the same capacity footprint. This validation from ESG was published about the time the industry was figuring out the idea of software defined.

  • You can choose lower cost disk arrays. SAN storage comes in various flavors. Generally, the higher priced physical arrays are where the enterprise class services are found. Many datacenters have an over abundance of these high end disk arrays simply because their workloads need the more robust services. Choosing to software define decouples the services from the physical storage. With IBM Spectrum Virtualize, you have access to the same enterprise services regardless of what storage tier or vendor you choose for capacity. And Spectrum Virtualize can transparently move data up and down those tiers to keep I/O patterns optimized. In a coming post I’ll talk about the intelligent analytics from IBM Spectrum Control that can help optimize your tiering choices and timing.
  • You can adopt new storage technology more quickly. There’s always something new in SAN storage. More dense disk drives resulting in lower cost per terabyte. Flash storage with much higher throughput. Integrating these new technologies into your SAN and getting your data migrated has been a perennial challenge for IT managers for as long as I’ve been in the storage industry.  Choosing to software define eliminates the problem. IBM Spectrum Virtualize can non-disruptively move data across tiers, vendors, and technologies of SAN storage. If you find a new storage type you want to exploit, plug it into your SAN tell Spectrum Virtualize to move data to it. If you have an old array going off lease, add the replacement to your SAN and tell Spectrum Virtualize to move the data. Software defined means these activities happen without interruption to workloads that are up and running, accessing the data.
  • You can implement ultra high availability using any type of physical storage. Datacenters with the most demanding availability requirements have traditionally been shackled to the most expensive SAN disk arrays because that’s where the most robust replication and fail-over / fail back capabilities were offered. Choosing to software define means you can implement those capabilities on lower cost physical storage. With IBM Spectrum Virtualize, you can implement multi-site ultra high availability configurations including sites at distance that operate as an active-active pair. The benefit of software defined is that this can be done regardless of your choice in vendor or tier of storage.

If you are an IT manager responsible for traditional SAN infrastructure, consider the common functionality, management, and mobility across heterogeneous storage types that can come from software defining your SAN.

And join the conversation with #IBMStorage and #softwaredefined

IBM Spectrum Accelerate – Enterprise Storage in Minutes

For years, enterprise datacenters have been dominated by traditional disk arrays, things IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker would categorize as High-end and Midrange disk. Now, I don’t have anything against this kind of storage, in fact my company makes some of the most competitive offerings in these categories. But my last two posts Introducing IBM Spectrum Storage – Inside Perspective and IBM Spectrum Scale – Built for Efficiency, Optimized for Speed have centered on the idea that a shift is being forced by the scale, performance, and cost requirements of workloads like cloud, analytic, mobile, social, and Big Data. Infrastructure shiftThe storage industry needs a new way of doing things that utilizes much lower cost common building blocks with almost unlimited increments in scalability. I’m going to stay on that theme one more time as we talk about IBM Spectrum Accelerate, software defined storage that can help you construct enterprise storage in minutes.

The kind of datacenters being built by both enterprises and the public cloud pioneers for newer workloads are filled with much lower cost common building blocks. Imagine fields of identical computers each with some internal disk capacity. Cloud management software based on OpenStack dynamically schedules workloads onto hypervisors across this field of capacity. Workloads appear, storage is allocated, virtual networks are configured, workloads are dynamically scaled and relocated for optimization, and then they disappear when all the work is complete. This environment is hostile to the relative rigidity of traditional SAN storage. And yet it depends on many of the enterprise storage capabilities that SANs have matured over the years.

The genius of IBM Spectrum Accelerate is that it takes the complete set of enterprise storage capabilities available on one of the industry’s most competitive High-end disk arrays, and enables IT managers to leverage it on common building block hardware. You see, if you were to pull back the covers on the IBM XIV storage system you would discover that the forward-thinking engineers who architected it understood the demands that these newer workloads would bring. Inside the XIV you would find common building blocks – computers with disks – and intelligent software managing them.  IBM is the first company in the industry to extract intelligence directly from its traditional storage hardware products enabling clients to use it as software.

Think about the scenario. An IT manager has created a common building block physical infrastructure for new generation workloads. No SAN, no High-end or Midrange disk arrays. Just a field of low-cost, common building block computers – some with internal disk capacity – and a hypervisor. Workloads are being deployed in virtual machines, but these workloads need enterprise storage services. So the IT manager deploys IBM Spectrum Accelerate software into virtual machines on some of those common building blocks that have internal disk capacity. What happens next is the stuff legends are made of.

IBM Spectrum Accelerate forms those common building blocks and their disks into an iSCSI storage grid. Virtual volumes are spread across all the common building blocks so that all resources are used evenly, including memory in the servers which is formed into a distributed cache. Spectrum Accelerate storage gridFor robustness, each logical partition is stored in at least two copies on separate building blocks, so that if a part of a disk drive, an entire disk drive, or an entire building block fails, the data is still available. Since all resources in the grid are evenly utilized, all resources are engaged in quickly getting the system back to redundancy following a failure. If after the initial deployment, the IT manager wants to scale capacity, Spectrum Accelerate software can be deployed in virtual machines on additional building blocks. When the new building block joins the grid, data is automatically redistributed to maintain optimal use of resources. And this software defined storage system, deployed in minutes, includes all the enterprise storage capabilities IT managers have come to expect – thin provisioning, writable snapshots, synchronous and asynchronous replication with consistency groups, and failover/fail back.

If you are an IT manager, consider the rapid flexibility and potential cost benefits of this software defined approach to constructing enterprise storage.

And join the conversation with #IBMStorage and #softwaredefined