IBM, the Future of Data Storage, and the End of the Array?

GettyImages-969437896This week, IBM announced several enhancements to its storage portfolio. While there was a lot of good stuff in there, IBM’s new Spectrum Fusion offering deserves a deeper conversation. My colleague Paul Nashawaty covered some of the value it offers in his blog. I wanted to take a step back, however, and look at IBM Spectrum Fusion as it relates to the overall direction of IT storage and Infrastructure.

Spectrum Fusion is poised to become a truly transformational offering. Similar to a brief I wrote last year, this is another indication that the way in which data storage and IT infrastructure technology is built and delivered is changing, maybe permanently, and definitely for the better.

The bottom line? IT is in the midst of a complexity crisis. COVID-19 presented a black-swan event for nearly every business and industry world-wide. The result? The world turned to technology to mitigate the limitations on person-to-person interaction. IT organizations large and small took up the slack (figuratively and literally with a capital “S”) and responded to these demands. But the job got a lot harder in the process.

In ESG research, the percentage of IT decision makers that said IT is more complex than it was two years prior jumped from 64% at the start of 2020[1] to 75% a year later[2]. IT leaders are facing an increased variety of new technologies and new application environments, such as Kubernetes, they must support across a wider range of locations, the business demands faster and faster delivery of services, and every day a new regulation or security threat emerges. Net-net, IT is a complex job that just got a lot more important and more difficult in a hurry.

So, what does this have to do with IBM and Spectrum Fusion?

IT needs technology that is designed to address the demands of modern IT, not just better versions of old architectures. If you were going to start over from scratch, and deliver IT infrastructure technology to address the actual needs of modern application and data storage environments, you would:

  1. Design an efficient and secure data storage layer that can support any type of application, whether container-based or in a virtual machine.
  2. Allow those applications to run anywhere, in whatever cloud you want, in your data center, or at the edge, all while enabling any app to have access to the right data.
  3. Deliver it as a single “thing” so IT teams don’t have to spend countless hours planning and architecting the environment, waste more time cobbling it together, and  manage dozens of vendors just to support the environment.

With that in mind, let’s look at IBM Spectrum Fusion. This technology attempts to address each of those three requirements above with a single integrated platform. I am going to play back just some, but not all, of the capabilities of IBM Spectrum Fusion to help make my point:

  1. Spectrum Fusion presents a single copy of globally accessible data for multi-cloud data sharing and access.
  2. Spectrum Fusion leverages OpenShift to run both Kubernetes-based containers as well as virtual machine environments.
  3. Spectrum Fusion is delivered as an integrated HCI appliance with a future software-defined deployment option.

Looking ahead, I expect IT vendors to continue to move further and further away from selling physical arrays and focus more and more on delivering higher-level infrastructure solutions with capabilities that span multi-site and multi-cloud environments. Technologies discussions will focus less and less on the speeds and feeds of the tech and more on the business outcomes the vendor can deliver for your specific environment.

Is this the end of the storage array? Yes and no. There will always be a hardware system that stores and protects data under the covers, but IT vendors are evolving how that system and the underlying technology are being delivered. IT organizations need greater simplicity and flexibility to address a new set of demands. IBM Spectrum Fusion is a step forward towards delivering the future of data storage that modern businesses need.

Let me know what you think. Disagree on the future of storage? Interested in continuing the conversation? Send me a note and let’s discuss.

[1] Source: ESG Research Report, 2020 Technology Spending Intentions Survey, February 2020.

[2] Source: ESG Research Report, 2021 Technology Spending Intentions Survey, January 2021.


Topics: Storage