IBM’s Spectrum Storage Management Products Now a Software Suite

Jean S. Bozman, Vice President & Principal Analyst 
Judith Hurwitz, President & CEO

It is clear that the storage market is undergoing a massive change. The advent of cloud storage has changed the way that customers think about storage as a utility. In addition, customers must be able to store more complex data in an efficient and secure manner. This efficiency will come from the ability to streamline storage management. 

IBM’s Spectrum Storage portfolio announcement on Jan. 26, 2015 addressed a reality of most large IT data centers: multiple storage management systems have been adopted, with each of those solutions focused on specific types of storage. Another fundamental reality: storage management is a multi-vendor world – bringing data managers a variety of different consoles, and different procedures.

IBM’s strategy of consolidating its offerings has extended to its storage platform. Therefore, the company has integrated the six storage point products into a unified portfolio. The portfolio includes traditional block-based storage, along with widely adopted file-based storage and rapidly growing object-based storage (e.g. data from Internet of Things [IoT]). 

IBM Spectrum is a unifying the portfolio that combines these point products into a single software suite, and offering pricing based on a single metric – capacity. The new pricing model will be on a per-terabyte (TB) basis. Pricing for the suite, to be announced on Feb. 16, is designed to reduce ongoing licensing costs by up to 40%, compared with a la carte pricing.

The Products in the Spectrum Suite

The products in the six-product Spectrum Suite include the following (listed in alphabetical order):

  • IBM Spectrum Accelerate – Software that originally came from the IBM XIV storage system, which supports scale-out expansion of storage capacity. Supports rapid scale-out capacity growth, reducing capacity-planning cycles.
  • IBM Spectrum Archive – Software for archiving data on tape. This capability can be integrated with IBM Spectrum Scale, creating a single file/object store on a variety of media (HDD, SSD [solid-state flash], archive tape and on the Cloud), spanning multiple storage tiers. 
  • IBM Spectrum Control – Unified management console across all Spectrum products. Control also manages storage management software deployments made by other vendors (non-IBM).
  • IBM Spectrum Protect – Data protection and data recovery software for on-prem data centers and off-prem storage on the Cloud. Supports high availability and disaster recovery (HA/DR).
  • IBM Spectrum Scale – Originating as IBM GPFS, Spectrum Scale supports open-ended scale-out infrastructure, of the type widely used by cloud service providers’ hyperscale data centers and portions of enterprise data centers. It is software-defined storage (SDS) for high-performance, large-scale workloads, such as those running on large clusters for analytics purposes, including Hadoop and HPC/scientific applications.
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize – Managing virtualized storage resources across the data center and cloud. Spectrum Virtualize supports block SAN storage.

Customer Perspective

IBM’s goal is to encourage existing customers who already have two or more of the Spectrum products to buy the entire suite. IBM is making this an attractive offer by including the whole suite at a similar cost, depending on which products are deployed. With IBM Spectrum Storage Suite, clients can save up to 40% on license cost compared with licensing the same capabilities singly, on a per-product basis. Clients who want to use just one Spectrum product may continue to license the software on an “a la carte” basis, and later trade-up when they install more Spectrum portfolio products.

IBM is banking on customers viewing this announcement as a pragmatic economic decision – especially for customers with multiple IBM Spectrum products. For clients who already own Spectrum Storage Suite, IBM is offering additional capacity on a no-fee basis if those customers are sandboxing and testing future use cases with Spectrum products. Large customers can work with IBM’s services group to customize storage software deployments. We believe that SMB customers will likely look to IBM’s channel partners for support and service when planning, deploying and operating a Spectrum environment.

However, the installed base of IBM customers typically has acquired software from many vendors, over time – and has relationships with other storage management vendors (e.g., EMC, Veritas, HP). It will likely take some time, and IT planning cycles, to widen the IBM Spectrum use in some of those accounts. That’s precisely why the pricing advantages, with potentially deep discounts, are built into this offer. The deep pricing discounts are designed to accelerate the IBM storage management footprint, especially in large accounts with many processing cores, server footprints and storage products.

Competitive Perspective

The storage management market has a long history – and use of specific products is often associated with different control points, as seen on different management consoles. There is demand to provide more unified views of all managed storage, wherever possible. Still, that drive to consolidation has been slowed by inertia and the persistence of existing products in enterprise data centers. Financial incentives and new acquisition models will be needed to encourage faster transformation of the existing storage-management infrastructure.

Diversity of products is also a reality in many data centers. Most storage management products take into account the presence of multiple software products in any given data center – and software “agents” are typically employed to bring management data from many products into just a few management consoles. This helps system administrators, as they are managing more storage and more data today than ever before. Rapid data growth is often at odds with expense-constrained IT budgets, requiring IT organizations to do “more with less.”

The ratio of management systems and the number of administrators has been changing in recent years – with each admin managing more and more storage footprints each year. This has been accelerated by rapidly growing object data-stores, along with traditional block-based data and widely adopted file-based data. The increasing complexity and expansion of storage needs in data centers and into the Cloud means that customers must have a unified view of data they are managing.

Key Takeaways

IBM is right in focusing on customers’ needs to ease management tasks, and a unified management data across storage tiers. Hurwitz believes this move to a unified portfolio is a strong one for IBM, demonstrating its ability to manage rapidly growing data-stores across hybrid clouds. By acknowledging the realities of customer’s real-world deployments, and the need to simplify data management, IBM stands to improve its share of the storage-management marketplace.