Bridging the Clouds: IBM Storage Announcements Focus on Hybrid Cloud and Multi-Cloud Data

April 2, 2019

Bridging the Clouds: IBM Storage Announcements Focus on Hybrid Cloud and Multi-Cloud Data

By Jean S. Bozman

Hybrid clouds and multi-clouds, spanning enterprise data centers, private clouds and public clouds, are placing a new set of requirements on customers’ storage systems. Customers must deal with the new realities of cloud migration, protecting older applications and data – while supporting for new generation of cloud-native applications deployed with containers.

All of these storage-intensive workloads – enterprise databases and transactional applications – need better performance from their storage – and easier management for all of their hybrid cloud storage resources. Compared to traditional IT infrastructure, the physical infrastructure has to change – and the software environment has to adapt to hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments.

For storage hardware, flash storage and NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) fast interconnects now speed access to enterprise data, no matter where it resides – on-premises or off-premises in the cloud. For storage software, the storage management tasks of discovery, access, and protection of enterprise data must be done more quickly and efficiently than before, given the rapid growth in business data to be stored, analyzed and managed.


IBM’s Key Principles for the Announcements

In its April 2, 2019, announcements, IBM is building on the following principles for its storage offerings:

  • Data is the universal digital asset that must be protected – and better managed across data sources. To do this, IBM is emphasizing the need to “visualize” data resources – and to embed AI and ML technology into the offering to help extend the capabilities of IT staff.
  • Multi-vendor storage is a “given” in large corporations – and storage software must support enterprise data – no matter how and where it is stored. IBM is certifying its storage software to run on hundreds of non-IBM storage platforms in the hybrid cloud to support customers who are adopting a hybrid and multi-cloud strategy.
  • Containerization is being adopted to increase development quality, to reduce time, and to allow for portability across clouds. That is what makes the CSI – the Container Storage Interface– a vital addition to the containerized software environment for enterprises that are migrating applications to the cloud. IBM is supporting CSI, which supports interoperability with many container types, and interoperability with other brands of public clouds in addition to the IBM Cloud for multi-cloud deployments.


Announcement Summary

Inherent in IBM’s April 2, 2019, announcements is the understanding that most enterprises and SMB customers are now living in a multi-vendor world. That becomes even more important with the migrations of enterprise applications and data into the public cloud.

Because hybrid cloud is becoming the de facto model for many customers – and multi-cloud is being adopted more widely, IBM announced that it is certifying its IBM Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud software for use with Amazon Web Services (AWS), in addition to the IBM Cloud public cloud that was already supported. Reflecting widespread customer use of mixed-vendor platforms for storage, IBM says that its on-premises Spectrum Virtualize software supports more than 450 storage systems (IBM and non-IBM).

Regarding its own storage system brands, IBM is continuing to make data access faster and more efficient through the use of all-flash storage arrays (AFAs) and NVMe fast interconnects. Specifically, IBM announced three new IBM Storwize V5000 entry and midrange storage systems, extending the Storwize range to meet more entry and midrange price points. There is also a previously-announced V7000 series of mid-range Storwize systems that have flash and NVMe support. All Storwize systems are sold only through IBM channel partners.

Why should customers care about this IBM Storage announcement? It reflects the reality that nearly all enterprises have a multi-vendor storage environment that must manage and optimize the performance of existing storage investments.

These mixed-vendor shops reflect years of acquisition of IT infrastructure, which some call “inherited infrastructure.” Growth through mergers-and-acquisition (M&A) activity brings the need to maintain and manage different types of storage and infrastructure. This is particularly true in the financial, health care and retail sectors, which have seen intensive M&A activity in recent years. This announcement will support refresh of IBM Storwize systems in customers’ on-premises and CSP’s off-premises data centers.


Key Points of the IBM Storage Announcements

  • IBM Storwize entry and midrange storage systems: In the Storwize V5000 series, IBM is making data access faster through the use of all-flash-arrays (AFAs) – and data transfer faster through the use of NVMe fast interconnects and the NVMe-oF (NVMe over Fabric) technology for data fabrics. IBM has now refreshed the entire IBM Storwize product line, announcing new entry and midrange Storwize storage systems, and supporting Storwize scalability up to multi-petabytes (PB). IBM is now supporting a full six-9s of availability (99.9999% uptime) for Storwize systems (up from five-9s). Since 2018, the Storwize line is sold only through the channel, targeting lower price points, and gaining direct support through IBM’s global network of channel partners. IBM FlashCore Modules—used in Storwize V5100 and Storwize V7000—have been certified for the U.S. FIPS federal standards for security.
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud software is enhanced for use with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and IBM Cloud. The IBM Spectrum Virtualize software supports data that is distributed between on-premise and off-premises (public cloud) storage. The offering supports automated tiering for data – moving data to appropriate storage resources via AI predictive analytics capabilities. For example, rarely accessed data can be moved to cold storage to reduce costs. IBM Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud also supports making snapshots to Amazon S3 object storage, which provides protection against malware attacks because known, good copies located in object storage will not be accessible to this software. Support for more public clouds will likely follow in 2019/2020.
  • IBM Storage Insights supports improved alerting. Storage Insights, a cloud management toolset for block-based storage, has added the ability to customize alerting, which helps focus attention on critical storage. A new ability to apply alerting policies across storage systems ensures different storage is handled in a consistent manner.
  • Support for Blockchain. IBM added the ability to use on-premises storage for off-chain data that is part of a cloud-based blockchain peer network. Off-chain data may have unique performance or security requirements, which may be better met using on-premises storage.
  • Support for Container Storage Interface (CSI). The emerging CSI standard is taking on increased importance for multi-cloud deployments, ensuring that applications stored in different types of containers, and managed by different clouds, can interoperate. IBM also announced plans to plans to add container-native software-defined storage to its block, file, and object offerings.



The emphasis for the IBM Storage business unit is on linking storage resources together across hybrid clouds and multi-clouds – using block, file and object storage, data discovery, and data management software. IBM is infusing its offering with AI-based analytics to support a greater degree of automation for data management across hybrid clouds. This software-driven approach automation frees up IT staff resources for other tasks besides manual, labor-intensive management of storage systems. It also opens the door to growing IBM’s storage installed base through the use of IBM Spectrum software in highly distributed cloud environments.

IBM’s refresh of IBM Storwize hardware systems brings new entry-level price-points to the full range of IBM Storage systems. The new models are specifically targeted at new use-case scenarios – all of which will be supported by IBM channel partners on a worldwide basis.

The channel-only delivery and support, on a worldwide basis, improves IBM Storage efficiency and pricing as it competes with Dell/EMC, HPE and others in a highly competitive storage market, especially in the SMB space. The entire Storwize line, including the V5000 Series and the V7000 Series, now has all-flash capability and NVMe fast interconnects, allowing companies to update and refresh their storage for data-intensive, cloud-enabled workloads.

IBM Spectrum Storage software, a suite of storage-software supporting scalability, distributed computing and data protection software, is already a key product line supporting the extensive IBM Storage systems product line. However, its reach is getting much broader: IBM Spectrum Storage software already supports many non-IBM storage systems, and now includes more protection for customer data traversing hybrid clouds and multiple clouds.

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About Jean Bozman

Jean is a senior industry analyst focusing her research on server technology, storage technology, database software and the emerging market for Software Defined Infrastructure (SDI).