IBM Invests $1B In Flash Storage With 'Channel-First' Strategy

IBM on Thursday said it is investing $1 billion through 2015 on developing flash technology optimized to meet modern workloads such as social media, mobility and big data.

That investment includes the unspecified investment IBM made in its August acquisition of Texas Memory Systems (TMS).

While the IBM investment in flash will help in development of flash storage products for a wide range of applications, the focus will be on those applications in which performance is paramount, said Ambuj Goyal, general manager for systems storage in IBM's Systems & Technology Group.

[Related: IBM To Buy Texas Memory Systems (TMS), Challenge EMC, Startups In Flash Storage ]

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"The best ways to solve issues around social, mobile and big data all involve real-time analytics, which is where flash has a big play," Goyal said. "In a data warehouse, where there's less needs for real-time analytics, the requirements for flash storage are not as strong."

IBM's $1 billion flash technology investment is not just about performance, Goyal said. "It's about how systems transform as technology moves from mechanical storage to semiconductor storage," he said. "The performance of processors, memory, networking and bus performance have grown by eight to 10 times over the past 10 years, while mechanical storage performance has grown by only 20 percent. So everything is waiting for storage."

Part of that investment is going to set up 12 competency centers around the world to help customers build proofs of concepts to understand how the use of flash storage can decreased the costs of software licenses, processor core requirements, footprint and labor involved in tuning mechanical storage, Goyal said.

IBM also wants customers to know that flash storage can fit into their existing infrastructures without changing those infrastructures, he said.

"I want to not only show the technology, but show customers how to use it to simplify their data centers and reduce costs," he said.

IBM is also developing, both on its own as well as with partners, databases and analytics that are optimized to take advantage of flash technology, he said.

IBM's flash investment is centered on its acquisition of Texas Memory Systems, a company founded 30 years ago to develop semiconductor-based storage that has been building flash storage for the past six or seven years, Goyal said.

NEXT: New Flash Storage Array For The Channel

To that end, IBM on Thursday also unveiled the IBM FlashSystem 820, a new flash storage array based on TMS technology. The IBM FlashSystem 820 can store 24 TB of data in 1U of rack space, or about 1 petabyte of data in rack using less than 14 kilowatts of power, IBM's Goyal said.

IBM's flash storage strategy is also very much channel-centered, Goyal said. "We're going across the board with our flash technology from solution providers to distributors to systems integrators to MSPs," he said. "Everybody. Our initiative is channel-first."

With the news of its $1-billion investment in flash storage, IBM joins a number of its top competitors that have committed to making flash a keystone of their future offerings.

EMC in March unveiled its XtremSF family of flash storage products, including a PCIe storage accelerator and its first all-flash array.

The same month, NetApp unveiled its FlashRay strategy for building future all-flash storage arrays on a new application-optimized architecture.