RealTime IT News

IBM Increases Storage Space

When IBM unveiled its new, high-octane storage server at an event in New York Tuesday, it became apparent the company made some headway in taking virtualization features from its mainframe systems and dropping them into its storage line.

Officials are so confident in the new products, they believe IBM can double its storage market share in the next five years, prying pieces from market leaders HP EMC .

The new TotalStorage DS8000 uses logical partitioning capabilities supported by the Armonk, N.Y. company's vaunted Virtualization Engine. The DS8000 allows the resources of the storage system to be allocated into logical storage system partitions, each of which can be independent.

IBM has employed virtualization for about 40 years, dating back to the creation of the mainframe. But it has only recently used the technology in other dimensions of its business, demonstrating that it has been able to bridge the once considered wide gap in servers and storage.

Big Blue claims it is paying off. Bill Zeitler, senior vice president and group executive of IBM's Systems and Technology Group, said the company has sold 800 licenses of its SAN Volume Controller (SVC) virtualization system, which lets administrators manage disparate storage systems and combine their capacity into a single storage pool.

On the strength of the DS8000's crossover technologies, IBM sees no reason why it can't exponentially grow its storage system share. The company plans to do this through a careful combination of infrastructure simplification and openness, both of which are key characteristics of IBM's e-business on-demand strategy for making computing more automatic and efficient for customers.

Zeitler told the crowd IBM is making such a strong push because of the growth potential the company sees in the storage market. Citing IDC estimates, the executive said the market is projected to grow 6 percent a year to achieve a total of $30 billion by 2008.

One of the central themes of the product launch was how the server and storage market are moving toward greater alignment, a point Zeitler drove home a few times.

When asked how well he thought IBM would do on the strength of the new storage systems, Zeitler compared growth potential to the server market, noting that sales for IBM's eServer computing machines gained 10 percent in the last three years.

While IBM's share of the total storage market is 21 percent, with 14 percent of the market for external storage systems, Zeitler confidently said he expects IBM to double its market share in the next four to five years, gaining ground on external systems leader HP and runner-up EMC.

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Tony Asaro said IBM can use its virtualization prowess to a distinct competitive advantage at a time when Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) and EMC are bearing down with similar technologies.

"As time goes, that will be a competitive advantage as they add more LPARs to [DS8000] and they allow people to further virtualize the physical storage assets," Asaro told internetnews.com. "To reduce the total cost of storage, you have to consolidate, and the only real way you can do that is by virtualization and using your physical assets as multiple systems."

Last month, HDS raised many eyebrows when it unveiled its TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform in New York. That technology allows users to manage 32 petabytes of internal and external data, separating that data into 32 logical partitions.

Since both the DS8000 and TagmaStore do logical partitioning, it's easy for customers to get confused about which one to pick. Asaro explained some of the differences in the approaches of IBM and HDS.

"The key difference is that IBM does virtualization at the processor level, whereas USP is more of a resource manager," Asaro said. "So it really allocates different resources. The only thing it doesn't allocate is the CPU, so you're still sharing the CPU load among all the virtual systems."

"What is interesting about IBM's implementation is that I can have different storage system images that have different code levels," he continued. "To me, they're just different ways to address the common problem of doing massive consolidation. The interesting thing is that both HDS and IBM are innovating. These aren't 'me, too' products. It will be interesting to see how EMC responds."

EMC, the last of the high-end storage vendors to delve into virtualization, is planning to release a product called Storage Router in 2005.

"The bar has been raised," Asaro said. "It's really in EMC's best interest to be aggressive about what they're going to do in answer to both IBM and HDS."