We live in an unsettling time for enterprise storage technology. It may not be too much of a stretch to say that the future of storage technology is more uncertain now than it has been in the past 10 or 15 years. Emerging technology trends such as the cloud and big data analytics, along with the storage innovations of software-defined storage (SDS) and solid-state are transforming the information technology landscape as we speak.
While multiple, if not all, technology providers have identified this transition, execution strategies differ. Some providers focus on the infrastructure, designing the best storage technology and features to prepare for the pending onslaught of data. Other providers focus on the expanded ecosystem, understanding that organizations may need technology in multiple locations, on- and off-premises. IBM takes these ideas one step further, not just focusing on bridging the old world of IT to the new, but striving to help businesses do more by layering advanced data analytics in an effort to achieve new and valuable insight.
At IBM Edge, the story was the potential of insight. In the general sessions, participants were provided a glimpse into the future where analytics changes the world of healthcare, government, manufacturing, and logistics. My first response was skeptical. Yes, IBM is doing some amazing things with governments and large companies. But for the mid-sized or smaller business, how would these stories translate? As the event continued, however, the picture became a little clearer. The message was to inspire each participant to ask themselves, “What are you doing with your data? And, why aren’t you doing more?” IBM doesn't seem to be asking potential customers to call their sales rep and ask for a new product or solution; they instead want those potential customers to call IBM and ask for help maximizing the value of their data.
For IBM, business or organizational value via insight is the end game. The storage portfolio is simply a means to an end rather than an end itself. But that does not mean that IBM is deemphasizing storage; multiple innovations are key components. IBM looks to lead in the key areas that it sees as the future of storage: solid-state and software-defined storage.
For solid-state, IBM announced it was the number one all-flash storage array vendor in 2014, shipping more capacity and units than any other competitor thanks to its FlashSystem portfolio.
For SDS, IBM offers Spectrum Storage, a portfolio of SDS offerings, including:
- Spectrum Accelerate: Grid-scale block storage designed for accelerated deployment
- Spectrum Virtualize: Data virtualization targeted to improve storage resource utilization and productivity, and streamline deployment
- Spectrum Scale: Scalable SDS that enables global shared access to data with high levels of scalability and agility
- Spectrum Control: Infrastructure management for virtualized, cloud, and software-defined storage
- Spectrum Protect: Data protection and resiliency for SDS, virtual, physical, and cloud environments
- Spectrum Archive: Storage for infrequently accessed data with the ability to shift from disk to tape to lower costs focusing on ease of use, without the need for proprietary tape applications
Some of these components are simply rebrands of existing technology. Consolidating the portfolio looks to be a smart first step to help IBM drive its SDS message to the same level that it has achieved with solid-state. To help drive adoption of SDS based solutions, IBM is still missing one piece of the puzzle with the lack of a hyper-converged offering. While I wouldn't be surprised if IBM adjusts its portfolio to respond to this gap in the future, IBM endeavors to have a higher level conversation about the value of data and I doubt a packaging model for SDS will inhibit the conversations the company is looking to have. As far as IBM is concerned, storage should be invisible and the focus should be on business value, with insight and advanced analytics being the path to achieving that value.