IBM's "Flash Ahead" announcement last week was way more than a formal coming out for the products IBM gained—and has updated—in its recent acquisition of Texas Memory Systems.
Instead, it was IBM's loud announcement that it too is a vendor that is wholly serious about solid-state storage as a vital, vibrant, and growing element within a storage hierarchy. Now, our industry isn't short of loud announcements—sometimes these multi-media message-fests are only matched in enthusiasm by the cries of "prove it" and "show me" that follow. For once, IBM did not equate the number of words on its PowerPoints with quality (let's be fair—it has succumbed to that temptation before!). Replacing that, there was a pleasing simplicity to its message, an elegance that was backed up in a couple of very concrete ways. Here's what was said in a nutshell: "We (IBM) believe in the future of solid-state as an economically viable element within pretty much any storage hierarchy; and we're putting our money where our mouth is, with our expertise provided in tandem."
The more formal statements included the following:
- Redoubled emphasis of flash in this new "Flash Ahead" program
- $1 billion of—new—R&D funding to support the initiative
- Messaging that clearly places economics as the central plank of IBM's solid-state positioning
- Updated all-flash systems, including a option that is integrated with IBM's SVC functionality
- A dozen global "Flash Centers of Competency"
The overall effect is to effectively convey that this is truly an initiative for IBM (akin to its recent Analytics announcements) and not just Big Blue donning the latest trendy fashion. In so doing, it will probably help create the sort of rising tide syndrome that could lift all boats: After all, it is addressing flash as a true long-term paradigm shift and not just a great short-term opportunistic technology. Of course, that won't harm its own prospects either, but there's nothing wrong with that. Much of its announcement focused on the elements—including effective TCO, software, and durability amongst others—that it would use to fight the flash-meritocracy battle. Yet although IBM is no longer the sole determinate of all-things-storage, it remains an IT behemoth and therefore still carries significant weight when it speaks this loud.