By Siobhan Kennedy and Rik Turner IBM Corp used the PC Expo show in New York yesterday to formally outline its storage area network strategy, announcing a series of SAN-enabled hardware and software products and outlining a roadmap for future offerings, which the company said would be rolled out over the next year. Rather than […]
By Siobhan Kennedy and Rik Turner
IBM Corp used the PC Expo show in New York yesterday to formally outline its storage area network strategy, announcing a series of SAN-enabled hardware and software products and outlining a roadmap for future offerings, which the company said would be rolled out over the next year.
Rather than just concentrate on its mainframe division, which is what IBM’s SAN strategy has largely focused on up till now, IBM executives said Tuesday the new strategy would bring together multiple divisions – including storage, servers, software, networking and global services – all with one common (albeit predictable) aim: to help companies implement e-business strategies by better managing their disparate data stores.
While IBM is somewhat late into the SAN game – other vendors like StorageTek, Veritas, Sun, Hewlett-Packard and Data General have already outlined their SAN initiatives – Walter Raizner, VP of marketing and strategy for IBM’s Technology Group in Somers, NY, told a press conference the company wanted to wait until it had an entire strategy to unveil, rather than announcing point products in dribs and drabs, like its competitors.
To that end, the company made a series of hardware and software announcements at the show yesterday, and gave details for future products due to be rolled out over the next year. Key to the announcement is the delivery of Big Blue’s first eight-way Netfinity server system, the 8500R, which can support up to eight 550MHz Intel Pentium III processors on an NT platform. The server with one processor and no disk drive will cost around $20,000 while a fully-configured system, with 12 hot swappable PCI slots, will be priced around $40,000. Originally slated for release next month, the server is now expected to be available in late September due, officials said, to delays in Intel launching its Profusion chip set.
It also introduced two SAN fiber channel fabric hardware boxes, both of which are due to be launched by the end of the year. The first is an eight- or sixteen-port fibre channel switch which enables SCSI-based NT and Unix servers and workstations to link, across the SAN, to fiber channel storage devices. The second, IBM’s SAN data gateway, has one fiber channel uplink and two SCSI downlinks, to connect to such things as tape storage devices that aren’t yet SAN-enabled.
On the software side, IBM said its Tivoli division would introduce a mulit-vendor tape pooling product, enabling both NT and Unix servers to share the same tape back up devices, as well as a new Lan-free back-up solution. The latter enables servers to back up directly to storage devices without having to send the data across the enterprise Lan, which serves to slow the network down. The tape pooling software is due in September, while the Lan-less back-up product will be released in the first quarter next year, IBM said. Meanwhile, a smarter hostless, or ‘backdoor’, backup, which does not take up server processor cycles, will take a little longer, probably hitting the market only by mid-2000.
IBM said three of its four major server ranges, the S/390, RS/6000 and Netfinity, are already ‘SAN-ready’, with the AS/400e line joining the fold in 2000. The ultimate aim, the company said, is to be able to offer SANs which are any server to any storage.
IBM also used the opportunity to talk up its commitment to open SAN standards, adding that the company intends to push the SNIA architecture as its preferred standard. But nonetheless standards issues remain sticky, not just on the SAN side, where there are a number of emerging industry standards, but also on the I/O side – the system bus that servers use to communicate with each other and peripherals, such as storage devices, on the network. Officials remained tight-lipped on whether IBM storage products would also support servers that contain Intel Corp’s forthcoming NGIO (Next Generation Input/Output) fiber channel architecture bus. Rather than use NGIO, IBM, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard and partners have gone their own way and developed an alternative architecture, Future I/O. But whether the two will sit comfortably side by side in a SAN remains to be seen.
As part of the roll out, IBM also announced its Global Services division would be on hand to offer a number of services including helping customers plan, design and implement their SAN from scratch; migrate what products they already have into a SAN environment or simply fill in gaps in their existing storage product set.
Other players in the industry welcomed the fact that Big Blue was committing so emphatically to the SAN market yesterday. Jim Dawson, vice president of European operations at Data General’s Clariion storage division, wondered whether, like other server manufacturers, IBM might not be building its strategy around its own storage servers, and therefore paying only lip service to open systems. In other words, he asked, ‘how compelling is it for non-IBM users?’
As for the commitment to fibre channel, he noted that the announcement mentioned switches and fabric architecture, but wasn’t clear whether IBM is also ‘taking FC onto the back plains of storage’, or basically offering only ‘front-end FC’. Clariion, of course, touts the fact that it alone can offer a ‘full fiber’ package,, i.e. FC end-to-end.
Dr. Chris Boorman, European marketing director for Veritas Software Corp, was predictably concerned by IBM’s desire to be the ‘premier total SAN solution provider’, in that Veritas clearly feels its storage management software encompasses more customer requirements right now than IBM’s. It already has hostless (serverless) backup, for instance. He also noted the absence of any mention of clustered applications servers in the IBM announcement.