IBM Unveils Software-Defined Version Of Its Storwize All-Flash Storage, Targets Dell And EMC With Migration Tools

IBM on Tuesday introduced a software-defined version of its all-flash storage array the company said will eventually work on most major server brands.

Big Blue also extended the capabilities of one of its higher-end flash arrays, and made it easier for partners to order its existing flash storage arrays. The company also introduced a new migration program aimed at making it easier for partners to move clients off competitive storage systems, especially from Dell and EMC, onto to IBM systems.

The IBM Spectrum Virtualize software-defined storage system, which until now has been available only as part of an integrated all-flash storage appliance, will be available next month to run on customers' own bare metal servers, said Eric Stouffer, director of offering management for IBM's Spectrum Virtualized family.

[Related: IDC: All-Flash Storage Array Sales Soar In First Quarter, Enterprise Storage Sales Stumble Badly]

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IBM Spectrum Virtualize software will over the next few months be qualified to run on bare metal Lenovo, Cisco, HPE, and Supermicro servers, Stouffer told CRN. Future versions will be encapsulated in a virtual machine for increased flexibility, he said.

"By running our IBM Spectrum Virtualize software on other companies' hardware, we provide more flexibility and a lower cost of deployment," he said. "Enterprise data centers or MSPs want to match their servers. They want flexibility."

By bringing IBM Spectrum Virtualize to market as a software-defined offering, IBM is showing forward thinking, said Mark Wyllie, CEO of Flagship Solutions Group, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based solution provider and IBM channel partner.

"IBM storage is going into mixed environments," Wyllie told CRN. "To maximize old storage investments and leverage new ones, software-defined is the key. Being forward-thinking is important. The more you manage what customers bought, the more they want to hear about it."

IBM Spectrum Virtualize is at the core of IBM's entire Storwize flash storage line, parts of which were also updated on Tuesday.

These include the IBM Storwize V7000F and IBM Storwize V5030F, which are new all-flash versions of IBM's existing V7000 and V5030.

Eric Herzog, vice president of product marketing and management for IBM storage systems, told CRN that the V7000 and V5030 could previously be ordered in all-flash versions, but required ordering multiple parts. The "F" in the model numbers V7000F and V5030F signify all-flash storage to simplify the order process, he said.

IBM also expanded the flash capacity of its flagship Storwize V9000 with the addition of new, larger-capacity 7-TB and 15-TB flash drives expected to be available in the fourth quarter, Stouffer said.

Also new to IBM is "Flash In," a program aimed at helping Dell and EMC customers easily migrate to IBM all-flash storage systems.

With Flash In, IBM will provide up to 40 hours of free migration services to move customers from EMC or Dell storage gear, whether it is hard drive-based, flash-based, or hybrid, Herzog said.

"Migration is a pain," he said. "Everybody hates it. But we're the second-largest storage vendor, and we've done tons of migrations. Our storage hardware and software have built-in migration tools."

The IBM Storwize platform is ideal for migration because it already has software virtualization as a core feature, Herzog said. Storwize can improve storage efficiency by adding such services as real-time compression, thin provisioning, and snapshotting across nearly 400 different storage arrays from various vendors, he said.

When asked why a customer would consider moving data from Dell or EMC storage to IBM, Herzog cited uncertainty over Dell's planned EMC acquisition and the fast growth of the flash storage market..

"Customers have EMC VNX solutions they bought in 2011," he said. "They were great solutions at the time. But they're now slow. When customers migrate to Storwize, it's free migration. They get a faster, brand new box. And they can re-purpose their old storage array so they save on capex [capital expenses]."

Herzog said that IBM has a fast-growing flash storage business, with a product line that has already gone through all the necessary revisions to make it work with future flash technologies. IBM is also the largest software-defined storage vendor by IDC's count, he said.

IBM storage has a great future, especially in how it is able to manage multi-vendor storage capacity, Wyllie said.

"When we run our managed services, sometimes we run our customers' physical servers, but we use our own control module connected to IBM storage so we don't use any more WAN bandwidth than needed," he said. "We can connect multiple platforms, including IBM storage, to interface with customers' equipment."