Predictable costs with IBM cloud-like pricing for on-premises storage systems: Remove the mystery!

5 minute read

Cloud rocks! In a lot of ways, it has become a philosophy in organizations everywhere. Forrester has observed that the flexibility of its economics is too great for this model to fail. But they are also quick to note that “leaders can operate under a cloud philosophy without ever using public cloud, via cloud-like pricing for physical assets.” On the same point, IDC suggests that 60% of organizations will be using a consumption-based OPEX model for acquiring on-premises infrastructure in the next several years. One reason is that it reduces risk. IT managers in the datacenter can provide cloud-like flexibility with capacity always at the ready – without the risk or cost of paying for something that’s not being used. And cloud-like pricing prevents service providers from carrying the cost of additional infrastructure before they have sold that capacity to their customers. 

In this post, I’m exploring cloud-like pricing for on-premises storage from IBM.  It’s a straightforward approach that works like IT managers would intuitively expect it to, removing the mystery often encountered in competitive schemes, and providing ongoing predictability in costs. 

For IT managers and purchasing folks, the basic needs are really quite simple. 

  • Storage consumption goes up – and comes down. I only want to pay for what I’m using, nothing more. 
  • When storage capacity consumption bursts up, I need the capacity to be there and available. 
  • Storage technology evolves. When it’s time for new infrastructure, I don’t want overlapping costs, and I don’t want application disruption while my data moves. 

It’s a simple set of needs, but for most vendors it has been much easier said than done. Some ship over-provisioned systems with relatively small ‘buffer capacity’ or ‘reserve capacity’ and a bill that goes up as the reserve is consumed.  So far so good, but as the buffer is used up, the vendor has to install more capacity.  There are two issues with this, one is the the bill doesn’t go back down when the added reserve is emptied again.  Nice for them isn’t it!  The other issue is most IT managers want to avoid the periodic capacity upgrades that could result in workload disruptions. Some vendors offer to replace your storage controller as technology evolves, but they don’t replace the actual flash drives that are holding your data. What good is that – technology evolves there too doesn’t it? Or maybe you can bring in a complete replacement system, but the process of moving data from the old system to the new system is disruptive to your applications. It doesn’t have to be that way. 

Meet IBM cloud pricing for on-premises storage. It’s simple. 

Step 1: Do you have a rough forecast of how much storage capacity you might need over the next three, four, five years? Most IT managers can get in the ballpark. IBM and its Business Partners can help refine your thinking into a reasonably educated guess. Whatever number you jointly come up with, IBM is prepared to install the full amount of capacity on your premises. Remember, nobody has paid for anything yet, so maybe you want to edge your estimate up a little just to remove some risk or provide for unexpected bursts.

Step 2: With your educated guess established, take whatever the total capacity is and count some small part of it. For illustration purposes let’s say 35% plus or minus (your projected growth rate may edge that number up or down a bit). This amount should represent the part you are absolutely certain you are going to utilize. Often times this is the amount of capacity you are already using – no ambiguity there. The data already exists and as soon as your new IBM storage is installed, you’ll already have that percentage of the capacity filled up. This percentage becomes your baseline. 

Step 3: How do you want to pay for your baseline? You get to choose. You can rent it per TB/month with as little as a 12-month commitment and cancel with 60 days notice any time after that. Or you can lease it per TB/month for 3-5 years. Or you could choose to just purchase it all up front. It’s your call.

Step 4: Well, there isn’t really a step 4. You have enough storage installed to meet the demand you’ve forecasted over the next several years, but you are only using and paying for a small part (in our example about 35%). There’s nothing more for you to do except focus on managing your business. IBM Storage Insights, which I discussed in my post Software for Simplifying Storage Operations, is included with your cloud pricing to make life easier for your IT manager. It’s also there to meter your actual storage capacity usage. Your daily usage above the baseline is automatically averaged across the month and you receive a quarterly bill. You are only billed for what you are using, and importantly, if your usage comes back down, so does your bill. It’s that simple. 

See all that IBM FlashWatch has to offer

Fast forward three years

Actually, fast forward about two and a half years. It’s time to evaluate how new technology enhancements might benefit your organization and decide how you want to proceed at the end of your three-year term. You can choose to upgrade your complete system – controller AND storage – or keep your current system, or simply return the old system and walk away. If you choose to upgrade, you’ll feel like a kid in a candy shop. 

  • First, you get to choose what size system to upgrade to. Configure a bigger, faster system if you need to. Or a smaller system if you like. Or just keep capacity the same only with current technology. If you keep things the same, IBM will guarantee the same or lower monthly price. 
  • Next, IBM will provide the new storage a full 90 days prior to the term running out on your current storage. Using the power of the IBM Spectrum Virtualize software foundation, data can be transparently migrated from the old system to the new one. And even though the new system is already installed, payments start only after the 90-day migration window giving you continuity in your costs. Out with the old, in with the new, and no overlapping costs. 

And if that’s not enough…

In my post on Elegant Flexibility – IBM Spectrum Virtualize, I included a section on These systems make your storage simply operationally resilient. In a world with increasing demands on data availability, IBM offers Hyperswap. When properly deployed by IBM Lab Services, IBM will guarantee 100% data availability. That’s not five-9’s (99.999%) or six-9’s (99.9999%), it’s 100% availability. The cost challenge is that Hyperswap storage configurations require twice as many storage systems. To help make that more affordable, with the cloud pricing for on-premises storage that we’ve been discussing, you can get the 2x systems needed for high availability and only pay 1.2x the baseline costs.   

Share this post with your purchasing folks. 

What do you think? Are you ready to shift some financial risk to your supplier? IBM is ready to be your partner!

Software for simplifying storage operations: IBM Storage Insights

5 minute read

Business leaders rely on storage to keep the business running. For them, downtime in storage often means revenue loss. Line of business owners rely on storage to provide always-on fast access to data. “Irritated” may not be a strong enough word to describe their reaction when applications slow down or stop. Whether you are one of these business leaders or the IT infrastructure team on the front line of keeping applications running, there’s a new breed of intelligent help worth taking advantage of.  

Meet IBM Storage Insights and Spectrum Control – software designed to simplify your storage operations.  This software lead the way for IBM Storage offerings in exploiting IBM Enterprise Design Thinking(1) to deliver great customer experiences. It combines the latest in AI assist and analytic insights with secure SaaS delivery from the IBM Cloud. The result? Well, it’s a simply great experience from the application owner to the IT manager to the C-Suite who is concerned with overall business uptime. 

Let’s look at some details

With the Storage Insights family, clients have the choice whether to take advantage of IBM’s free software-as-a-service, securely from the IBM Cloud, or to purchase and deploy the monitoring software on-premises. For this blog, I’m going to focus on the free software-as-a-service, called Storage Insights. I’ll touch on priced options, Storage Insights Pro and Spectrum Control, toward the end. 

Keeping track of system performance, capacity utilization and overall health is simple. In fact, clients can get a consistent operational view of all their IBM storage. But really, what distinguishes Storage Insights is its use of analytics and AI.

Analytics and AI love a good problem. Give them data to work on and it’s sometimes surprising what you can learn. Storage Insights collects telemetry at the rate of about 23 million points from each system every day – and, as of the time of this post, with Storage Insights managing over three exabytes of storage, the data lake has a LOT of telemetry information! From there analytics can offer insights into configuration best practices that will help reduce risk. They can also help predict component failures giving IT managers opportunity to be proactive and avoid business impact. And AI can detect anomalous patterns in workloads and system behavior that can help identify and resolve complex issues that arise in storage infrastructure.  

IBM Storage Insights helps connect client teams, both infrastructure teams and lines of business, with IBM

First, all parties have a unified view of IBM Storage. This provides a single pane of glass to see an inventory of all a client’s IBM block storage systems and their characteristics. It also generates a live event feed so they know, up to the second, what is going on with their storage enabling fast action when needed. 

Second, Storage Insight collects telemetry data and securely ”calls home” with that data providing up to the second multi-conditional storage alerting around both capacity and performance. 

Next, Storage Insights monitors the overall health of storage, its configuration state to see if it meets the best practices of others like it in the industry, and system resource management helping proactively avoid situations where system resources are overtaxed. 

See a demonstration of Storage Insights predictive analytics

Finally, Storage Insights provides an enhanced level of customer service. Event filters eliminate unimportant noise helping get to the root issues quickly. Logs are automatically collected and communicated to IBM Support eliminating all the waiting and back-and-forth that, in the past, could slow down time-to-resolution by as much as 50%. And Storage Insights gives a direct means of opening, closing, and tracking support tickets. It’s one place for your interactions with IBM Storage Support.

If clients choose to take advantage of the free Storage Insights service, there are a few important attributes they’ll be impressed with.

  • They gain an extended team. Not only is IBM taking care of keeping the service up-to-date and running for them, IBM support becomes extended members of the client’s team able to virtually sit with them on either side of the same Storage Insights dashboard and work issues.
  • Notice the little green lock in the center of the graphic below. Storage Insights is delivered securely from the IBM Cloud. Client security teams will be happy to know that this is a one-way communication of device telemetry (metadata only), the data-at-rest is AES 256-bit encrypted and Storage Insights is certified to the ISO/IEC 27001 Information Security Management (ISM) standards to keep an organizations information assets secure. 

As valuable as the free Storage Insights Service is, there’s even more that can be unlocked. Clients can start a free trial of these capabilities with a single mouse-click right from the Storage Insights interface. 

Storage Insights Pro deepens the available information on IBM storage exposing up to a year of history, broadens the coverage to include some non-IBM storage, and introduces a configurable reporting interface. Adding an on-premises deployment of Spectrum Control brings an almost infinitely customizable reporting interface and further broadens the number of non-IBM storage systems that can be directly managed.  

Most clients we work with have a heterogeneous mix of storage. In environments like that, keeping track of system performance, capacity utilization and overall health can be difficult. With Storage Insights Pro or Spectrum Control it can be simple. In fact, clients can get a consistent operational view of all their storage. 

Read the new Forrester study on the Total Economic Impact of storage built with Spectrum Virtualize and managed by Storage Insights

In every organization, there is a need to share information. Leaders want to understand and track key performance indicators. With Storage Insights Pro, most anything seen in the cloud-based console can be directly shared with stakeholders as a report on a scheduled basis. This helps keep everyone on the same page and working toward common outcomes.  

What do you think? Could you use a simpler approach to monitoring storage system health, capacity, and performance from just about anywhere you happen to be? How about a simpler approach to creating tickets and uploading diagnostic information that automatically flows into the proper support queues? Leave a comment.

(1) IBM Enterprise Design Thinking is a best practice that IBM teaches and certifies practitioners on across the industry. It is the method we use to ensure our offerings deliver great experiences to our customers.

Storage Software for Hybrid Multicloud: IBM Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud

4 minute read

When your journey takes your infrastructure to hybrid multicloud, the same Spectrum Virtualize software that is available on IBM enterprise storage systems from entry to midrange to high-end, and across over 500 heterogeneous on-premises storage systems, can also be quickly deployed on multiple public clouds. It’s storage for hybrid multicloud made simple.

Certainly we have all noticed the rapid industry transition toward hybrid multicloud. With most organizations now using a mix of cloud models and more than one public cloud provider, and billions of US dollars expected to be spent in 2020 on hybrid multicloud infrastructure, hybrid multicloud is the new normal – and it is impacting strategic storage choices. You may be wondering “Why does storage in the cloud change how I should look at storage on-premises?” It’s an important question that I explored in my post on Innovating with an infrastructure-independent storage software foundation. It’s worth a quick 4 minute read. 

Most IT managers are quite adept at evaluating on-premises storage options. But this area of hybrid multicloud storage is relatively new. Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud runs on multiple public clouds, but for the purposes of this blog post, I’ll focus on Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud on Amazon Web Services as my example.

Consistency on-premises and on cloud

Peruse this list of cloud misconceptions and count the ones you may have heard before (I’ve heard them all). 

  • My IT management team operates the on-prem infrastructure. We won’t have to mess with the cloud. 
  • Cloud storage is cheap. Moving data there means you don’t have to worry about tiering and data reduction like you do on-premises.
  • Cloud storage has services for things like snapshotting and replication. I guess that’s what the application guys will use. 

One of the realities I find in cloud deployments is that, at least initially, applications are being lifted and shifted from on-prem to the cloud. Few, if any, modifications are being made and largely the same IT organization is being tasked with managing both the on-premises and cloud infrastructure. There are decades of investment in automation and skilled IT managers that organizations want to leverage, making consistency important. And just because companies are renting their storage infrastructure from a cloud provider doesn’t mean they no longer care about being as efficient as they can to keep their costs down. 

Learn how IBM Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud is helping service providers to help their clients extend on-premises storage to Amazon Web Services

On-premises, Spectrum Virtualize can bring consistent behavior to over 500 different IBM and non-IBM storage systems. On the cloud, Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud can bring that same consistency to Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS). Consistency how? Here are a couple of examples. 

  • To make efficient use of your on-premises storage capacity, you would use deduplication, compression, and thin provisioning. Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud does the same for Amazon EBS. 
  • To make effective use of your on-premises storage tiers you would turn on automated tiering. Amazon also offers multiple EBS volume types – tiers of storage – and Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud includes the same AI-driven EasyTier function found on-premises, helping ensure the right data is placed on the right EBS tier at the right time. With EasyTier, most environments can be configured with a small amount of the highest performing tiers and a larger quantity of more economical storage – saving money on your bill from Amazon. 

Connecting storage across the hybrid multicloud

There are a number of compelling storage use cases we see organizations deploy across the hybrid multicloud. Leveraging the cloud as a replication target for business continuity. Snapshotting on-premises data to the cloud for DevOps or so applications can leverage analytic and AI services found on the cloud. Creating air-gap copies to the cloud to aid in cyber resiliency. Or simply migrating workloads either from on-premises to the cloud, or from one cloud provider to another. With all these use cases, it’s important to have consistency on both ends of the connection.  

With Spectrum Virtualize on-premises across any IBM or non-IBM storage systems you might choose, on your Amazon EBS storage, and on block storage from other cloud providers, your hybrid multicloud storage infrastructure can offer a consistent set of services, surfaced by a consistent set of APIs, and be managed in a consistent manner regardless of your choice in on-premises storage vendors or your choice in cloud providers. As your application programmers begin leveraging environments like Red Hat OpenShift that allow them to build applications once and deploy anywhere, having a consistent approach to storage in all the places they might deploy becomes critical. At the same time, as an IT administrator, you can still have the flexibility to source your infrastructure from most any on-premises or cloud provider you like. It’s an infrastructure independent approach that gives you both consistency and flexibility. 

Check back for the next post where I’ll dive a little deeper into software for simplifying storage operations. 

Elegant flexibility – IBM Spectrum Virtualize and the SAN Volume Controller

4 minute read

Elegant flexibility

Strategic storage choices are more about the software than the hardware it happens to be running on at the moment. Do you agree?

In my post Change in the storage industry is coming – and it’s good! I shared why I think there is a trend toward radical simplification starting in the storage industry. IBM started the trend and others are sure to follow in bids to remain competitive. I’m continuing the discussion on what IBM has done. For other available posts in the series, look here.

With its February 2020 announcement of Storage Made Simple for Hybrid Multicloud, IBM introduced a strategic storage software platform, IBM Spectrum Virtualize, and an AI-infused management service, IBM Storage Insights, that operate on a family of enterprise storage systems spanning from entry to midrange to high-end, all engineered with the best from IBM Enterprise Design Thinking(1) to deliver great customer experiences. Spectrum Virtualize and Storage Insights can also be applied to over 500 heterogeneous on-premises storage systems and multiple public clouds to give IT managers consistency in storage operations across their hybrid multicloud. 

Discussions about storage systems and their capabilities are often compartmentalized – here’s one storage system and what it does, here’s another storage system and what it does differently, etc. The radically simple idea IBM has introduced is that, with Spectrum Virtualize and Storage Insights, all the IBM FlashSystem storage from entry enterprise through to high-end enterprise, and all the other block storage you might have from other vendors, and the block storage you might use on multiple public clouds can all behave in a consistent manner. It’s an elegant approach. To keep these posts consumable in length, I’m going to introduce one of the platforms and a few of the consistent software capabilities in each post. A good place to start is with the IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC)

Meet the IBM SAN Volume Controller with Spectrum Virtualize

Now in its tenth generation, clients have been deploying Spectrum Virtualize on SVC for over a decade to bring the power of a strategic software foundation to over 500 on-premises storage systems from a wide mix of vendors. If you are interested in modernizing the storage you already have, this is a starting point. 

Like all storage based on Spectrum Virtualize…

These systems make your storage simple to scale.

One of the enemies of storage efficiency is stranded pools of capacity.  And an enemy of operational efficiency is a heterogeneous storage infrastructure. SAN Volume Controller helps defeat both enemies.

A single SAN Volume Controller cluster can combine up to 32 petabytes of storage capacity from over 500 different heterogeneous storage systems into a single pool of capacity. That capacity is presented as a single system, has a single point of management, and importantly a single set of APIs and procedures. Think of that for a moment. You have the freedom to maintain heterogeneous storage infrastructure, creating a little healthy competition between vendors, without the operational headaches that usually follow. And you can apply advanced features like encryption, data reduction, enhanced high-availability, and connection to the cloud across all your storage even if its an older model that predates that sort of capability. Then, when it comes time to add more capacity or shift your vendor strategy, no big deal. Just insert the new and remove the old. Your data can be migrated without disruption and your operations remain consistent. It’s that simple. 

SAN Volume Controller makes your storage simple to scale

These systems make your storage simply operationally resilient.

Ensuring your data stays available to your applications is the primary function of storage. When you are operating storage with Spectrum Virtualize, you’re covered. In fact, for the most stringent requirements, IBM guarantees it.

Regardless of your choice in storage hardware vendors, Spectrum Virtualize offers a consistent approach to traditional 2-site and 3-site replication configurations using your choice of synchronous or asynchronous data communication. There is also IBM Hyperswap. When properly deployed by IBM Lab Services, IBM will guarantee 100% data availability. That’s not five-9’s (99.999%) or six-9’s (99.9999%), it’s 100% availability. 

Finally, Spectrum Virtualize running on the SVC offers unique enhanced high-availability (HA) configurations that deliver zero-impact failover between two to four sites and the possibility of fifth-site replication that can include public cloud. 

SAN Volume Controller makes your storage simply operationally resilient

Check back for the next post where I’ll introduce FlashSystem high-end enterprise storage and a few more of the Spectrum Virtualize capabilities found across the hybrid multicloud. 

What do you think? Are strategic storage choices more about the software than the hardware it happens to be running on at the moment? Join the conversation – leave a comment!

(1) IBM Enterprise Design Thinking is a best practice that IBM teaches and certifies practitioners on across the industry. It is the method we use to ensure our offerings deliver great experiences to our customers.

Software Defined Storage Use Case – Block SAN Storage for Traditional Workloads

In my last post, IBM Spectrum Storage Suite – Revolutionizing How IT Managers License Software Defined Storage, I introduced a simple and predictable licensing model for most all the storage needs an IT manager might have. That’s a pretty big concept if you think about all the storage use cases an IT manager has to deal with.

  • Block SAN storage for traditional workloadsIBM Spectrum Storage Suite Symbol
  • File storage for analytic or Big Data workloads
  • Object storage for cloud and mobile workloads
  • Scale-out block storage for VMware datastores
  • Storage for housing archive or backup copies

Just to name a few… The idea behind software defined storage is that an IT manager optimizes storage hardware capacity purchases for performance, environmentals (like power and space consumption), and cost. Then he ‘software defines’ that capacity into something useful – something that meets the needs of whatever particular use case he is trying to deal with. But is that really possible under a single, predictable software defined storage license? The best way I can think of to answer the question is to look at several of the most common use cases we see with our clients.

Perhaps the most widely deployed enterprise use case today is block SAN storage for the traditional workloads that all our businesses are built on – databases, email systems, ERP, customer relationship management and the like. Most IT managers know exactly what kind of storage capabilities they need to deploy for this use case. It’s stuff like:

Here’s the thing… This use case has been evolving for years and most IT managers have it deployed. The problem isn’t that the capabilities don’t exist. The problem is that the capabilities are most often tied directly to a specific piece of hardware. If you like a particular capability, the only way to get it is to buy that vendors hardware. It’s a hardware-defined model and you were locked in. With IBM Spectrum Storage, IBM has securely unboxed with software defined. All the capabilities I just mentioned can be accomplished with one IBM Spectrum Storage Suite software license and you have complete flexibility to pick whatever hardware vendor or tier you like. The idea of software defined changes everything. With the software securely unboxed from the hardware, you really are free to choose whatever hardware you want from most any vendor you like. And since the software can stay the same even while hardware is changing, it means you don’t experience any operational or procedural tax when you make those changes.

All of the capabilities mentioned above for addressing this Block SAN storage for traditional workloads use case can be accomplished with one IBM Spectrum Storage Suite software license. This may be the most widely deployed use case today, but it’s not the fastest growing use case. In my next posts, I’ll continue looking at the wide variety of use cases that are covered by the simple, predictable IBM Spectrum Storage Suite software defined storage license.

Are you interested in taking the first step with software defined storage? Contact your IBM Business Partner or sales representative. And join the conversation with #IBMStorage and #softwaredefined.

IBM Spectrum Storage Suite – Revolutionizing How IT Managers License Software Defined Storage

About a year age IBM shook up the software defined storage world with IBM Spectrum Storage.  It was the industry’s first complete family of software defined storage offerings that could drive cost efficiency and total management across most all the needs an IT manager might have:

IBM Spectrum Storage Family Tall

  • Software defined storage for traditional workloads like database, email and ERP systems as well as new-gen workloads like analytic, mobile, Big Data, cloud and Cognitive business.
  • Capabilities needed for primary data as well as backup or archive copies.
  • Access via block, file and object protocols.
  • Operating on heterogeneous storage hardware from most any vendor – traditional SAN storage infrastructure as well as newer scale out infrastructure with storage-rich servers.
  • …all nicely integrated with a consistent set of interfaces and vocabulary.


In a world where much of this type of capability had been tied to some piece of hardware – hardware defined storage – IBM had securely unboxed storage and forever changed storage economics. In the last year, over 2,000 brand new clients have started with IBM Spectrum Storage. Through those conversations, we’ve learned two important things about how enterprises are approaching software defined storage – things that have led us to revolutionize how software defined storage is licensed.

  1. CFO’s are exasperated with the unpredictability of storage and storage software licensing. IT managers generally have a good feel for what type of capabilities they need to accomplish the use cases they want. But have you ever paused to think about how confusing it must be for them to figure out exactly how much software they need to license? Think about it from the perspective of someone not using IBM Spectrum Storage.
    • SAN Virtualization software can be licensed starting with a per frame base and then adding a per TB managed
    • Storage Resource Management software can be licensed per system and per tiered-TB
    • Backup software can be licensed per operating platform or application and then adding a per TB
    • Data stores for Virtual Machines can be licensed per server and per VM
    • Deduplication software can be licensed per system
    • …and the list can go on. If the IT manager can figure out how much of this stuff he wants at a given point in time, how is a CFO supposed to predict future costs?
  2. IT managers are dealing with transition in storage infrastructure. What software they need can shift rapidly. Most IT managers reading this post are responsible for estates of SAN storage. For the traditional workloads that our businesses are built on, this has been the dominant storage infrastructure approach for years. But there is a transition well underway. Who hasn’t been impacted by newer mobile and cloud workloads? What company or organization isn’t looking to make better use of Big Data and analytic workloads? These applications are being built to take advantage of a different kind of storage infrastructure, one that is characterized by direct-attach JBODs and fields of servers with lots of internal capacity, and really none of it connected to a SAN. IDC data suggests that IT managers are now purchasing more TB’s of this type of storage than they are SAN storage, and the trend isn’t likely to ever change. In many enterprises, the capacity mix is shifting from traditional SAN to newer storage-rich servers. The transition presents a challenge in storage software licensing. When physical infrastructure shifts from big SAN-attached storage systems to scale-out storage-rich servers, the types of capabilities needed don’t change dramatically, but the specific vendor software packages change a lot. Instead of a virtualizer for block SAN storage, an IT manager might need to shift toward offerings that software-define his field of storage-rich servers into something useful like performance optimized file storage for analytics, an integrated VMware block data store, or cost optimized object storage for backup and archive. This is all new and the rate of change is unknown – and that presents a challenge. Flexibility is paramount.

IBM Spectrum Storage Suite SymbolWith IBM Spectrum Storage Suite, IT managers now have a simple and predictable licensing model for the entire IBM Spectrum Storage family. Its straightforward per-TB pricing relates costs to the amount of storage capacity being software-defined, regardless of use case. That makes it easy for IT managers to grow and transition how they use storage, and for CFOs to predict costs. And with the Suite, clients can save up to 40% compared with licensing all capabilities separately.

Consider a typical enterprise starting with its existing SAN storage infrastructure but rapidly growing a new kind of infrastructure for new workloads. In most datacenters this transition is coming, but few really understand how fast or exactly which use cases will emerge. There’s going to be some experimentation and rapid change.

IBM Spectrum Storage Suite evolving use case 1Attempting to navigate the next few years using a’ la carte licenses of point products from multiple vendors is going to be difficult. In fact, CFO’s are going to push back against the unpredictability and may ration what software can be licensed. That can slow down innovation. IBM Spectrum Storage Suite offers cost predictability and frees IT managers to exploit any IBM Spectrum Storage capability required to get the job done.

IBM Spectrum Storage Suite evolving use case 2Let’s suppose you are an IT manager at the front end of this picture. You’ve deployed Block SAN storage for traditional workloads as your first IBM Spectrum Storage Suite use case. Now you want to explore another use case. Well, with IBM Spectrum Storage Suite you already own entitlement to all capabilities in the IBM Spectrum Storage family, so you are free to download any of the software you like. To help you quickly adopt the additional use cases your business may need, IBM Spectrum Storage Suite licensing offers the ability to perform extended tests in an evaluation sandbox proving ground without additional charge. So go ahead, experiment with your next use case. Prove it, become familiar with it, pay for it when it’s deployed for productive use.

Are you interested in taking the first step with software defined storage? Contact your IBM Business Partner or sales representative. And join the conversation with #IBMStorage and #softwaredefined

How software defined is changing storage economics

About a year ago, IBM’s bold move into software defined storage changed how IT looks at storage. The introduction of IBM Spectrum Storage incorporated more than 700 patents and was backed by plans to invest more than $1 billion over the next five years toward propelling the use of software defined storage in any form – as software, appliance or cloud service.

To better understand why this is redefining the economics of storage and helping IT optimize cost, performance and security, consider some of what IBM Spectrum Storage is bringing to the IT landscape.

In February, IBM introduced the IBM Spectrum Storage family, the first comprehensive family of software defined storage offerings that can centrally manage yottabytes of data on more than 300 different storage devices.
(Related: Introducing IBM Spectrum Storage – Inside Perspective)

Efficiency and speed
As workloads like cloud, analytic, mobile, social, and Big Data began affecting scale, performance and cost requirements, it became clear that traditional IT infrastructures had to change. Software defined can be used with common building block storage to construct file and object systems built for efficiency and optimized for speed.
(Related: IBM Spectrum Scale – Built for Efficiency, Optimized for Speed)

Implemented in minutes
The same dynamic is also at work in the block storage that dominates today’s enterprise datacenters. The genius of software defined storage is that the complete set of enterprise storage capabilities available on high end arrays is now available for IT managers to leverage on common building block hardware.
(Related: IBM Spectrum Accelerate – Enterprise Storage in Minutes)

SAN storage efficiency doubled
Despite the rapid growth in newer cloud, analytic, mobile, social and big data workloads, more than half of the worldwide spend is still on traditional SAN storage, the choice for more traditional workloads like transaction systems, email, supply chain, HR and virtual servers. Software defined storage can help IT managers gain a great deal of efficiency in this part of the data center.
(Related: IBM Spectrum Virtualize – Traditional SAN Storage at Twice the Efficiency)

Intelligent analytics
Whether it’s the traditional workloads we have all grown up with or the new generation workloads, it’s well understood that there is a mismatch between data growth and the budgets that are allocated to deal with the problem. Software defined storage can provide IT managers with intelligent analytics for managing storage.
(Related: IBM Spectrum Control – Intelligent Analytics for Managing Storage)

Dramatic cost reduction
A looming question for many IT managers is just how efficiently the job of data protection can be done. They want to minimize the budget for data copies so they can shift investment to new business growth initiatives. Software defined storage can be, on average, 38 percent more efficient.
(Related: IBM Spectrum Protect – Crash Diet for Your Data Protection Budget)

Ultra-low cost and flexibility
Data growth is being fueled by new workloads and their seemingly insatiable need for data to process. But in many enterprises, even more of the data growth is the result of simply keeping data around – stuff like regulatory archives you have to keep and asset archives you just want to keep. Software defined storage can balance the convenience of online access with ultra-low cost and flexibility.
(Related: IBM Spectrum Archive – Ultra-low Cost Storage for Retaining Data)

How is software defined changing your approach to storage? Connect with me on Twitter at @RonRiffe, and join the conversation with #IBMStorage and #SoftwareDefined.

Originally posted June 1, 2015 on the IBM SmarterComputing blog

IBM Spectrum Archive – Ultra-low Cost Storage for Retaining Data

In my last several posts on members of the IBM Spectrum Storage family, I’ve talked a lot about the growth in data that is forcing IT managers to think differently about storage. Much of the data growth is being fueled by new workloads and their seemingly insatiable need for data to process. But in many enterprises, even more of the data growth is the result of simply keeping data around – stuff like regulatory archives you have to keep and asset archives you just want to keep. As this type of inactive data continues to grow, questions arise about the best way to store and manage it without losing many of the conveniences of online storage. This is where IBM Spectrum Archive excels, balancing the convenience of file system access with the ultra-low cost and flexibility of tape.

My daughter is a student at Texas A&M University, and is her daddy’s pride and joy. She’s part of the millennial generation, a demographic who can’t remember a world without almost unlimited access to digital information. I don’t recall a mental image of her without a smartphone, tablet or laptop in the picture. For her, the answer to every question is found in those devices. Every daily activity – listening to music as she runs, working on school assignments, talking with friends, capturing pictures or videos of important events, watching a movie, and a myriad of other apps – is done with those devices. In her world, a television set is just a bigger screen for Chromecast and a USB flash drive is something you use when Dropbox or Google Docs won’t do the job. Like, for example, when she needs to carry a document into a print center or load a presentation on her professor’s laptop to present to the class. It’s her version of data interchange.

The digitally native world my daughter lives in is what’s responsible for the tremendous data growth we are seeing in IT. These are the customers that business is trying to reach and the employees who are increasingly developing new workloads. They don’t use terms like “data archive”, but they do it for stuff like pictures that they just want to keep – and they use places like Dropbox that don’t really work for most corporate applications. They also don’t say “data interchange”, but they have grown up doing it on media like USB flash drives that don’t have the scale required by most businesses. As they bring their expectations into business, what they need is a super-sized alternative with reliability, security and duty cycle fit for business IT. That’s IBM Spectrum Archive.

In my post IBM Spectrum Scale – Built For Efficiency, Optimized For Speed, I introduced a software defined file and object store that includes rich policy for optimizing data placement across tiers of online storage. With Spectrum Scale and common building block storage, a single namespace can house something like 9 quintillion files. In my daughters mind, that’s like a super-sized business IT alternative to the storage on one of her personal devices. IBM Spectrum ArchiveThink about it for a second. For many datacenters, 9 quintillion files could represent all their data – all of it – neatly organized in a single namespace so it’s easy to find and easy to manage. While it’s cool for applications and people to be able to access data through a neatly organized file system interface, not all data needs to be housed in prime online real estate. It’s like the pictures on my daughters’ phone – easy to find, but when space on that prime real estate gets tight, the older pictures need to be “archived” someplace else.  The super-sized business IT alternative is IBM Spectrum Archive plugged-in to IBM Spectrum Scale.

Here’s the scenario.

  • You’ve got a pile of files in a single IBM Spectrum Scale namespace and you’ve leveraged policy to optimize data placement across online storage like Flash and spinning disk.
  • Some of your data needs to be archived (you’re a regulated business or you’ve just got intellectual property records you want to keep). So you plug in IBM Spectrum Archive to add a tape tier. The same policies are now extended to automatically place the right data on tape. In doing the selection, there’s all kind of granularity in the metadata you can write the policies against.
  • A tape tier requires some unique handling that Spectrum Archive seamlessly provides. Tapes can be grouped into pools, files can be replicated across multiple pools, and media is reclaimed as files move on.
  • The wow factor in all this is that workloads and users who had their files in Spectrum Scale don’t lose the neatly organized file system interface when files are archived to tape with Spectrum Archive. It’s transparent. All the files are still there in the common namespace.
  • For data interchange, a tape and its files can be exported from the namespace – basically checking those files out. Conversely, a Spectrum Archive tape can be checked in too (imported), and its files automatically appear in the Spectrum Scale namespace. Encrypting interchange tapes is also an option with the keys managed by IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager.

Tape entered the IT landscape in the baby boom generation. With software defined storage and Spectrum Archive, it continues as a core storage media for millennials.

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IBM Spectrum Protect – Crash Diet for Your Data Protection Budget

My career in storage started back in the late 1980’s when the IT world revolved around the computer system and everything else was considered a sub-system (I guess in some ways that made me a sub-administrator). The discipline of managing storage assets was just taking hold and the first order of business was to ensure all the corporate data was protected. Data that fed mainframe applications topped the list for most organizations but data associated with mission critical client-server workloads was growing rapidly. It was into this world that the great-great-grandfather of IBM Spectrum Protect was born.

Trivia question
Trivia question – leave a comment to play: Who can name the complete family lineage of IBM Spectrum Protect? Bonus points for expanding all the acronyms.


The world of IT has evolved a lot since then. Data is no longer a sub-thought, it is central – the new currency of business. The race to simply get all the important data protected is largely over. Spectrum Protect is now a highly evolved one-stop family that IT managers use to do that job. It is tightly integrated with workloads like databases, email systems and ERP applications; with the hypervisors they run in; with the file systems and storage devices they store their data on; and with the data capture tools that surround them such as snapshot and replication. It also includes advanced data reduction techniques like deduplication and compression.  Check out the live demo!

IBM Spectrum Protect dashboardThe question of simply ensuring your important data can be protected has been answered. The question now for most of the clients I talk to is just how efficiently the job of data protection can be done. They want to minimize the budget for data copies so they can shift investment to new business growth initiatives.

A few years ago IBM acquired Butterfly Software, a small company in the United Kingdom who had developed some BIG thoughts around communicating the economic benefits brought by certain approaches to storage. Butterfly had developed what they called an Analysis Engine Report (AER) that followed a straight forward thought process.

  1. Using a very light weight collector, gather real data about the existing storage infrastructure at a potential customer.
  2. Using that data, explain in good detail what the as-is effectiveness of the environment is and what costs will look like in five years time if the customer continues on the current approach.
  3. Show what a transformed storage infrastructure would look like compared to the as-is approach, and more importantly what future costs could look like compared to continuing as-is.

Using the Butterfly technology, IBM has partnered with clients to analyze thousands of different infrastructures scattered across every industry in most parts of the world and comprising exabytes of data. In all that analysis, our clients have discovered some remarkable things about software-defining storage and IBM’s ability to help transform the economic future of storage. One area of specialty for Butterfly is backup environments.

When compared to as-is competitive backup environments, transforming to an IBM Financial Belt Tightening 8595689Spectrum Protect approach can be, on average, 38% more efficient.  Of course your results may vary. For example, when we look at  just the mass of results from as-is Symantec NetBackup or CommVault Simpana or EMC NetWorker environments, each shows that transforming to a Spectrum Protect approach produces different, and in these three cases at least, somewhat stronger economic savings. We’ve got data by industry and for many other competitive backup approaches but you get the picture. Upgrading a backup environment to IBM Spectrum Protect is like a crash diet for your data protection budget. (Tweet this)

The best way to see for yourself is to contact IBM or an IBM Business Partner and ask for a Butterfly Backup AER study.

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IBM Spectrum Control – Intelligent Analytics for Managing Storage

There is a lot that gets said about the huge data growth IT managers face both from traditional workloads we have all grown up with and from new generation workloads like mobile, social, big data and analytics. It’s well understood that there is a mismatch between this growth and the budgets that are allocated to deal with the problem. For years the dominant conversation has been on lowering the cost of the raw capacity and on packing it with as much data as possible. There’s certainly a lot to be gained from lower-cost physical infrastructure, tiering, and technologies like thin provisioning, compression and deduplication. But as petabyte storage farms become commonplace and workloads become more sensitive to service levels, the job of balancing efficiency with performance, and performance with workload requirements becomes much more intense. That’s where IBM Spectrum Control excels – providing IT managers with intelligent analytics for managing storage.IBM Spectrum Control

Cost reduction and optimization

Most modern storage systems include tools that offer administrators a view of what’s going on under their covers – health of the system, performance of the system, utilization of the system, and so on. Two challenges arise for administrators responsible for storage estates of any consequential size.

  1. Consolidating a view of all storage: Datacenter storage is often a mix of vendors, tiers, and protocols like block and file. Tools included with individual storage systems don’t offer a broad enough perspective. Imagine being able to scan the complete environment and quickly identify capacity that isn’t yet allocated to a workload, or perhaps it is allocated but hasn’t seen any I/O activity in the last month. You could reallocate this idle capacity to maximize utilization. Imagine in that same scan identifying capacity that is working hard for you – and being able to forecast its future growth. No more guesswork. Imagine being able to monitor performance regardless of what storage tier or vendor you chose. You could apply that historical usage knowledge to tiering decisions and reduce cost.
  2. Managing consumer-oriented service levels: Businesses are intrerested in service levels for applications and business lines, not for pieces of hardware on the datacenter floor. Health, capacity, utilization, tiering… these are certainly all interesting at the storage system level, but their importance to the business is highlighted in more consumer-centric groupings like applications or business lines. Imagine being able to manage storage service levels – regardless of what hardware was in use – for an application like SAP or a business line like Corporate Accounting. When the financial quarter close was running (like it is in IBM at the time of this writing), you could show how the storage infrastructure associated with that business line was behaving.

We think this level of cost reduction and optimization should be quickly available to all storage administrators – whether they have deployed software defined storage like IBM Spectrum Virtualize or IBM Spectrum Scale, or are still operating with traditional hardware-centric arrays. That’s why we’re making IBM Spectrum Control available as a Software-as-a-Service offering called Storage Insights. Take a look and learn about the beta.

Intelligent Analytics

Clients who prefer to deploy Spectrum Control software on premises have the added opportunity to exploit advanced analytics for optimizing cost (one of my personal favorites). Here’s the scenario.

Suppose you are one of those IT managers I described above who are tasked with using multiple tiers of storage to balance efficiency with performance, and performance with workload requirements.  You’ve got a substantial storage estate so the prospects seem overwhelming. You’ve deployed Spectrum Control and you’re about to experience the value of analytics first hand.

For this example let’s suppose you have three pools of tier-1 storage and one pool of tier-2 storage that you want to analyze for re-tiering.IBM Spectrum Control storage poolsSpectrum Control discovers that one of the volumes in the tier-2 pool is over utilized. If it is moved to a tier-1 pool with sufficient performance capacity, the performance of the volume can be improved. IBM Spectrum Control overutilization analysisThe performance of the target pools are then analyzed and recommendations generated. The recommendations involve up-tiering the volume from the tier-2 pool to a tier-1 pool. You can review the recommendations or leverage the transparent data migration capability of Spectrum Virtualize to automatically move the volume to the tier-1 pool. IBM Spectrum Control uptierUsing a similar analysis, Spectrum Control can make recommendations to down-tier underutilized volumes that are occupying more expensive storage than is necessary. IBM Spectrum Control downtierA single tier analysis can result in multiple volume movements in which volumes are moved to both lower and higher storage tiers. You can also schedule analysis tasks to run at specified intervals so you regularly monitor opportunities for re-tiering.IBM Spectrum Control storage tieringAnother form of optimization is balancing. Pools in the same tier can have both low and high activity levels. But your goal might be to keep all the pools in a given tier close to the same utilization. Spectrum Control can identify the average utilization for a tier and specific pools that are deviating from that utilization by, say, more than 10%.IBM Spectrum Control pool balancint analysisBy analyzing pools on the same tier, Spectrum Control identifies opportunities to move volumes and optimize overall utilization of your storage assets. Again, when used in concert with Spectrum Virtualize, these volumes can be moved transparently.IBM Spectrum Control pool balancingThat’s intelligent analytics for managing storage. If you are an IT manager responsible for making the most of your storage investment, consider IBM Spectrum Control and Storage Insights.

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