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.

Introducing…
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.

Join the conversation with #IBMStorage and #softwaredefined.

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.

And join the conversation with #IBMStorage and #softwaredefined

IBM Spectrum Scale – Built For Efficiency, Optimized For Speed

The pioneers in the cloud movement have blazed a new trail when it comes to physical infrastructure. I briefly discussed their Pets vs Cattle approach in my post Introducing IBM Spectrum Storage – Inside Perspective. These guys thought about the scale, performance, and cost requirements that would be driven by workloads like cloud, analytic, mobile, social, and Big Data, and they decided that traditional infrastructures had to change. IBM Spectrum Scale Built for efficiency Optimized for speedWe needed a new way of doing things that utilized much lower cost common building blocks with almost unlimited increments in scalability. Something built for efficiency and optimized for speed. A software defined storage layer that crafts these common storage building blocks into massively scalable and deeply capable storage systems is IBM Spectrum Scale.

To do the job, this layer of storage software must have a couple of important attributes.

  1. Software defined storage has to cobble together common building blocks into a reliable storage system that quickly delivers data to workloads over a variety of protocols. The technology behind IBM Spectrum Scale began in IBM research over 20 years ago and earned its stripes with some of the most demanding scientific, digital media, and Big Data workloads on the planet. IBM Spectrum Scale common building blocksToday, it’s the software defined storage layer behind many of the 500 most powerful computer systems in the world. With the rise of cloud, analytic, mobile, and social workloads, we have been adapting additional file and object protocols to this extreme scale and performance. IBM Spectrum Scale can now deliver data over POSIX, NFS, a Hadoop connector and the OpenStack Swift object interface with more protocols being added regularly. I’ll talk about block protocols in future posts on IBM Spectrum Virtualize and IBM Spectrum Accelerate.
  2. Software defined storage has to deliver the kind of data management and security capabilities required to keep common building block infrastructures running efficiently. Snapshots, replication and encryption have become table stakes. IT managers now look for distinguishing characteristics like sophisticated tiering policies that can take disk-based data and move it ‘up’ to Flash storage or Flash cache on the computer where the workload is running, and ‘down’ to tape and the cloud. You can find all these capabilities in IBM Spectrum Scale and that’s good, but they are capabilities that have a somewhat single-site feel to them. “My data is here on-premises – make a snapshot, encrypt it, move it to another tier”. The cloud adds a more global dimension to storage. IBM Spectrum Scale AFMIBM Spectrum Scale capitalizes on this idea buy enabling IT managers to connect Spectrum Scale instances across an enterprise or around the world to create a single inventory of data with policies that define the location and flow of files – moving the right data to the right place at the right time [Learn more here]. Importantly, because this global namespace can house something like 9 quintillion files (did I mention high scale?) for varying workloads with different data management needs, IBM Spectrum Scale enables IT managers to apply data management and security policies to individual sets of files.

As the public cloud pioneers observed, a key is the ability to utilize common building block storage hardware. I’ll give you a practical example. IBM Spectrum Scale is software defined storage available as software, appliance or cloud service. IBM Elastic Storage ServerAn example appliance is the IBM Elastic Storage Server which combines Spectrum Scale software with dense, low cost, common building block disk drawers. The Elastic Storage Server also includes IBM Spectrum Scale RAID, a software implementation of declustered RAID where RAID is done at a block level as opposed to a disk level. As disks continue to get larger, traditional RAID begins to struggle and rebuild times can be measured in hours or days. IBM Spectrum Scale RAID measures rebuild times in minutes. Think about the implications for IT managers – a massively scalable and deeply capable storage system without a SAN or RAID controller, just software defined storage and a pile of dense JBOD drawers.  There is indeed a big shift taking place in the storage market.

Join the conversation with #IBMStorage and #softwaredefined.

Introducing IBM Spectrum Storage – Inside Perspective

Blank Direction GuideEvery once in a long while there are discoveries that, well, change everything. Stuff like discovering the earth isn’t flat, it’s round. People talked about that possibility for centuries but it wasn’t until a Ferdinand Magellan expedition stepped out and circumnavigated the globe that everything changed. In some ways, today’s announcement of IBM® Spectrum Storage™  has done the same thing for the idea of software defined storage.

A good deal of the change we are experiencing in IT can be traced back to the advent of cloud computing. The pioneers in the cloud movement were public cloud providers like Amazon, RackSpace and SoftLayer. When compared to traditional IT infrastructures used by most private enterprises, these guys approached infrastructure in a completely new way. Microsoft engineer William Baker is credited for famously describing these two differing approaches as Pets vs Cattle. The analogy goes something like this:

In a traditional infrastructure, you think of machines as pets. You give them names and care for their well-being. When they get ill, you nurse them back to health. In a cloud infrastructure, you think of your machines as cattle. You give them numbers because they are all identical, and when one gets ill, you shoot it and get another cow.

The observation public cloud providers made was that cloud infrastructures should use cattle.

 

BOOM!  

 

 

From that point, the industry transition was on. Common building block hardware was on the rise. The ideas of availability and recovery, of scale and performance were being built into software rather than depending on a more expensive physical infrastructure to provide it.  Newer workloads for mobile, social, analytics and Big Data were being built with an expectation of software defined cattle infrastructure. For IT managers, it represented a big move that was going to take some re-thinking. For vendors like IBM who clients trust to help them through transitions like this, it represented an opportunity to focus.

compass 2014In 2014, you may have noticed a number of really bold moves IBM made that were all, in some way, tied to this transition. IBM’s System x server division joined Lenovo accelerating their journey toward becoming the #1 provider of x86 building block hardware. The OpenPOWER Foundation was established making IBM’s POWER microprocessor architecture and software available to open development. This is helping the industry build advanced server, networking, storage and graphics technology aimed at delivering more choice, control and flexibility to developers of next-generation cloud data centers. And GLOBALFOUNDRIES announced their intention to acquire IBM’s commercial semiconductor technology business allowing IBM to better focus on fundamental semiconductor research and the development of systems that will be used with the new cloud workloads. Innovation AheadCoupled with these moves, IBM has directed its considerable innovation in areas of client value where we excel, one of those being Software Defined Storage.

The industry has been talking about the idea of software defined storage for a while. For that matter, I’ve been talking about software defined storage for a while. But compared to today, this was all sort of like people talking about the world being round. Analysts proposed concepts, some vendors marketed their visions, there were even a few fairly successful point products…until today. Today, somebody stepped out and actually delivered the first comprehensive family of software defined storage offerings that can centrally manage yottabytes of data on more than 300 different storage devices – whether SAN and NAS “pet” infrastructure or common building block “cattle” infrastructure…  and everything changed.

The leaderAlready recognized as the #1 provider of software defined storage platforms, IBM’s introduction of IBM Spectrum Storage incorporates more than 700 patents and is 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. In coming weeks, I’ll be highlighting the members of the IBM Spectrum Storage software defined family.

Join the conversation with #IBMStorage and #softwaredefined.