IBM: roadmap for data dedupe, thin prov, SSDs and MAID

IBM's storage general manager and chief technical strategist provide clues to IBM's storage roadmap in data deduplication, thin provisioning, solid-state disks and MAID.

During his talk, "Next Generation Information Infrastructure," at Storage Networking World in Florida this week IBM storage general manager Andy Monshaw spoke enthusiastically of emerging technologies, such as data deduplication, thin provisioning, solid-state disks (SSD) and MAID.

While it's hard to argue that those technologies drew great interest at the show, his comments were curious because IBM storage isn't exactly known for any of them. He also talked up technologies, such as virtualisation and encryption, in which IBM is a major player. But the missing technologies probably contain clues to its roadmap.

We debated MAID quite a bit. We think the technology's real, and we have a plan
Andy Monshaw
storage general managerIBM
When an audience member asked Monshaw about MAID, he said, "We debated this quite a bit. We think the technology's real, and we have a plan for the technology."

Monshaw didn't stick around for more questions, but caught up with Clod Barrera, IBM engineer and chief technical strategist, to discuss the other technologies Monshaw mentioned – and some that he didn't.

Data deduplication is 'a great idea'

It's only a matter of time until IBM has data deduplication in its virtual tape libraries (VTL) and probably other storage products. Barrera pointed out IBM has products that dedupe, including Lotus Notes 8 and the N Series of products it sells through an OEM deal with NetApp. Reports claim IBM is close to buying VTL dedupe vendor Diligent Technologies, although the SNW buzz said that deal had broken down. IBM can also get dedupe from its VTL software vendor FalconStor.

"It's a great idea," Barrera said of data deduplication in VTL. "We haven't shipped it yet. Expect us to have it soon."

Analysts and customers said IBM is overdue for thin provisioning on its arrays, especially the high-end DS8000 system. Barrera said the NetApp N Series is thin provisioned, and so are systems it acquired from XIV in January. "We've not yet released that as an IBM logo product, but that does thin provisioning."

And thin provisioning on the DS8000? "That's a good expectation," he said.

Biggest buzz

EMC kick-started interest in solid-state disk in January when it said it would add SSD to its Symmetrix systems. Others have followed with solid-state capabilities, including recent product releases from Nimbus Data and Xiotech. IBM ships SSDs for its xSeries blade servers, but not its storage products.

Monshaw gave some details on IBM's plans during his talk. He said "the biggest buzz in the industry now" is around SSDs. But first, "systems need to be redesigned," he added. "It will happen in high-performance computing first, then I/O-intense applications in financial services. It's coming into the mainstream. However, latency in the system will not let you take advantage of all its capabilities yet."

As for MAID, don't expect IBM to go too heavy for the disk spin-down systems. Barrera called it a niche product for certain applications and said, "I wouldn't call it a real big niche."

On the storage virtualisation front, Barrera said it's become clear that network-based appliances, such as IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC), are preferable to switch-based or array-based virtualisation. "Switch-based virtualisation has been a bust," he said in a slap at EMC's Invista. "There are very few users of that product." He said the problem with array-based virtualization is that "when I fill up or want to retire a box, I have to have some way to move data out. In the Fibre Channel world, that's hard to do."

System positioning

Barrera also indicated that reports of the demise of IBM's midrange DS6000 arrays are not exaggerated. "There has been some demand, but not a large amount," he said. "We don't have big expectations." He added that the XIV Ltd. product would likely replace the DS6000 as IBM's preferred open system in high, midrange and lower enterprise shops.

"It's a Tier 1 or Tier 2 capable product," Barrera said of the XIV platform. "In the near term, there are still some features to complete, but it will be complementary to the DS8000 and [lower midrange] DS4000 lines. Our target markets are areas we have not played in strongly – digital media and Web 2.0."

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