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IBM unifies storage arrays under FlashSystem brand

IBM to bring together all non-mainframe storage arrays as FlashSystem product, with options from entry-level to petabyte-scale with NVMe flash and storage class memory

IBM has announced that its non-mainframe storage array products – from entry-level to high-end – will now all come under the FlashSystem brand, with product configurations that range from three drives to multiple petabytes in a single system and hybrid/multicloud connectivity.

FlashSystem products will nearly all be NVMe flash, with only the lowest-end entry-level arrays using SAS-connected flash. At the high end, the 9200R is a pre-racked product that comes in a cluster of two or four FlashSystem 9200 arrays with Cisco or Brocade switches.

All FlashSystem arrays will run IBM’s Spectrum Virtualize software, which incorporates storage virtualisation functionality that can pool storage from more than a claimed 500 products from other suppliers.

Spectrum Virtualize also runs in the AWS and IBM clouds and is seen by an on-premise FlashSystem array as if it were also on premises, so allowing tiers of storage between on-site and cloud locations.

IBM CMO Eric Herzog said: “We are focusing everything onto a single platform. All the vendors – and that included us – had three to five different platforms, and that has driven up complexity and cost.”

Herzog said existing IBM storage array product families – which means StorWize and FlashSystem 9100 and A9000 – will continue until the end of the year. He added that with Spectrum Virtualize as the underlying software in these lines, migration to the unified FlashSystem will be relatively simple.

The product range will stretch from entry-level arrays in the 5000 series, through the mid-range 7200 to the high-end 9200, which is also available in the pre-racked 9200R, said Herzog.

In theory, a customer can start with a RAID 5 three-drive configuration in a 5000 series for about $16,000, he said.

Meanwhile, the top-end array would cost about $1m, with 4PB possible in 2U 9200 and 32PB in a cluster of them, said Herzog.

Read more on storage arrays

All-flash is the focus of the FlashSystem family, but hybrid flash and spinning disk will still be possible in entry-level hardware.

From the 5100 upward, all drives will be NVMe but below that, SAS will be used in IBM FlashCore modules.

Storage-class memory (SCM) is available using Intel Optane or Samsung Z-NAND media and IBM Easy Tier to move data in and out of that extra layer of hardware.

SCM fits between flash and DRAM and provides a layer of persistent media (unlike volatile DRAM) large enough to hold working datasets.

Herzog said at the high end of the range, performance will top 18 million IOPS and 180GBps of bandwidth, plus latency as low as 70μs.

“The key opportunity here is to innovate while reducing cost and complexity for the user, so we have a single platform and are taking it all the way up to the cloud,” he said. “With Spectrum Virtualize, it’s a single pane for IBM and storage from competitors.”

The FlashSystem product family also offers six nines availability and three-site replication, plus cyber resilience features that allow different methods of recovery to on-premise and cloud locations.

Read more on Flash storage and solid-state drives (SSDs)

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