IBM has spruced up its storage portfolio with what it says is it biggest set of storage updates for 2007, but is still leaving two of the most important storage technologies of the day unaddressed.
The company’s flagship DS8000 disk array gains new functions such as dynamic volume expansion, incremental snapshots, and automatic storage pool striping, and the option of being managed not from its conventional element manager or console, but from the Tivoli-inspired Productivity Center SRM tool.
Productivity Center is set to become a management console for IBM’s SAN Volume Controller virtualization system, and other IBM products, and as such will become IBM’s equivalent to Hitachi’s Hi-Command or EMC’s Enterprise ControlCenter SAN management software, Big Blue said.
IBM has also launched a heterogeneous NAS virtualization system, which is an OEM’ed or re-branded version of Brocade Communications Systems’ StorageX software. IBM already OEMs the full range of Network Appliance’s NAS devices, and NetApp also OEMs that Brocade virtualization system.
Big Blue has also boosted the size of its FalconStor-powered virtual tape library by moving to larger disks.
Some of the features are catching up with the competition, but these are all good steps in the right direction, said Tom Trainer, analyst at the Evaluator Group. The DS800 is performant enough, but it wasn’t quite keeping up with features and functions. I don’t know if this closes the gap but it does look Iike IBM’s focus has started to sharpen, he said.
But IBM is making no promises about when it will ship either data de-duplication or thin provisioning functions.
Two things have got to be on the roadmap of any serious storage supplier that’s data de-duplication and thin provisioning, said Robert Gray, analyst and founder of researcher RobertGrayDirect.
FalconStor has recently begun volume shipment of a de-duplicating extension to its virtual tape library, and has been publicly denying reports that the release of the de-dupe software was significantly delayed by bugs that have now been ironed out.
Asked when IBM will be shipping a re-branded version of that de-dupe code, IBM’s director of product marketing Charlie Andrews said that there will be no de-dupe in this release, and added: It’s something we’re working on.
Thin provisioning is a feature of sophisticated disk virtualization systems that can allow storage administrators to share the growth headroom across applications, and double their storage utilization rates.
IBM’s only major high-end rivals are Hitachi and EMC. Hitachi in May added thin provisioning to its flagship USP disk array that is OEM’ed by Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems, and EMC has promised to ship the feature on both its high-end Symmetrix and mid-range Clariion disk arrays in the first quarter next year.
IBM has yet to make a corresponding move. While Andrews described IBM’s new space-efficient incremental snapshot feature as similar to thin provisioning, he did not volunteer any information about a shipment date for true thin provisioning.
For the Evaluator Group, Trainer said that IBM’s move to convert its Productivity Center into a management console for the DS8000 was the most important update.
It looks like IBM storage people and Tivoli people are actually communicating, he said.