Yesterday IBM announced its intent to acquire Cleversafe, a Chicago-based object storage vendor. This is a great move for IBM and certainly fills some gaps in the portfolio for the cloud business. That's because object storage is likely the next big storage technology wave that will house the massive amounts of unstructured data we are generating today, and the even more massive amounts we will be generating in the future.
Object storage is designed for cost and capacity optimization - making it ideal as a backbone for cloud storage. Most cloud providers use object storage today, and we are seeing increasing interest in IT shops wanting to build on-premises private cloud deployments using object storage (more on that in a minute). Amazon S3 is perhaps the best known example. My colleague Scott Sinclair published an object storage market landscape report earlier this year that provides a great overview of the technology, market drivers & inhibitors, buying considerations and vendors - you can find it on the ESG site from the link above (login required).
Cleversafe was one of the early object storage vendors - founded in 2004, the company has taken a slow and deliberate approach to the market. According to Cleversafe, they have "multiple dozens" of customers, many with over 100 petabytes of Cleversafe installed. So while they don't have a large number of customers for a vendor that's been around for 11 years, they do have a large amount of capacity under management. That is why they've been so deliberate in their market approach - when you put that much data under management, it has to be a solid solution.
IBM needed an object store. For far too long, when it comes to unstructured data storage, IBM's answer has been GPFS (regardless of the question). GPFS is powerful, flexible, and really advanced technology - I don't want to knock it - but it is still a file system, not an object store. To realize the full cost, reliability, manageability, and scale of an object store - suitable for cloud scale - the solution needs to be object-based at its core. That's what Cleversafe provides for IBM - new economies of scale and manageability for their cloud customers. It gives IBM an on-premises cloud solution that fits neatly into Softlayer (the integration work with Cleversafe is already done) and rounds out the IBM offering. IBM can put Cleversafe on-premises, and offer public, private, and hybrid cloud solutions.
This private layer is important. While ESG research* indicates that more than a third of IT organizations are looking at cloud storage to source storage capacity without buying more on-premises infrastructure (by far the biggest IT initiative that will impact storage spending over the next 12 months), more than 80% of respondents in that same survey say that they are using, planning to use, or interested in object storage, with the primary driver being object as a foundation for private cloud storage. If that's not powerful enough, one quarter of those using or interested in object storage plan to completely eliminate NAS over time, while another 45% say object will significantly reduce their NAS footprint. And while technology change in the data center never happens as fast as planned (with one challenge being that most of the tech installed today doesn't "speak" object, it uses SMB or NFS) - these numbers are significant. IBM clearly hears the message from customers, and Cleversafe is their answer.
*Keep an eye out - our latest storage research is about to hit the presses and this is a sneak peek at the data. I'll hot link it when it's published!