IBM is realigning its storage business to meet the needs of data-driven businesses
We continue to demand more from our enterprise storage systems. It is no longer enough to store our data. Instead, storage today must protect our data, distribute it across media, manage it across clouds, catalog the unstructured bits, and integrate them into new cloud-native workflows. That is a lot.
Storage systems must do all of these things while delivering performance SLAs to the workload, whether feeding high-performance machine learning clusters or simply providing infrequently accessed historical data. It’s a very different world from just a few years ago, when we only relied on storage systems to store little more than data. The times have changed.
As storage evolves, so does the way we talk about the capabilities of a storage solution. Storage functionality is being delivered in new ways, increasingly relying on software to tie the various elements together. IBM is a prime example of a technology company that has stripped down the high-value components of its storage stack in a way that allows businesses to solve data problems quickly and efficiently.
IBM storage realignment
IBM sells some of the most mature and advanced storage technology you can buy. IBM’s storage hardware portfolio ranges from entry-level traditional disk arrays to high-performance systems capable of meeting the demanding needs of mainframe-class applications. IBM is also the world’s leading provider of tape libraries. That is a beginning. companies want more.
Workloads, infrastructure, and business needs are as varied as the companies that drive them. As a result, there is no universal answer. So it’s not surprising that IBM, which has been helping companies solve data challenges for over 70 years, saw early on that an enterprise storage solution could be tailored to each customer’s needs.
IBM expands its hardware-based storage offering with a number of software solutions that are optimally tailored to the specific challenges of today’s storage administrators. This software portfolio includes products that enable a range of software-defined storage offerings, hybrid cloud storage, data protection and governance, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure, and unstructured data management. IBM has long marketed its storage software solutions under its Spectrum brand, but that has now changed.
Goodbye IBM Spectrum Storage
In a move aimed at clarifying its messages and simplifying its portfolio, Denis Kennelly, general manager for IBM storage, announced in a blog post that IBM is retiring its Spectrum brand. Instead, IBM is putting “storage” front and center as it tailors its portfolio to focus on solutions to enterprise data management problems.
This step has been a long time coming. Denis tells us that beyond the typical market research that corporate marketing teams conduct, the IBM Storage team has spent time with customers and industry experts to refine IBM’s approach to storage. This has led IBM to make more than superficial changes.
One way to think about IBM’s new branding might be to simply replace “Spectrum” with “Storage.” For example, what was IBM Spectrum Scale is now IBM Storage Scale. But IBM’s moves go beyond simple branding. These efforts have also resulted in a greater alignment between the data challenges facing modern businesses and the solutions IBM offers to these clients. A A good example is IBM’s recent move to add Red Hat’s Ceph to the IBM Storage lineup.
Framework approach from IBM
From IBM’s perspective, its storage portfolio needs to align with the reality that nearly every organization is running on hybrid cloud infrastructure, running more AI-focused workloads, making edge a key component of digital transformation efforts, and dealing with data protection challenges on a daily basis. and addresses governance concerns. It’s hard to argue with this list.
With that in mind, IBM is aligning its hardware and software storage offerings into three broad areas: storage for data and AI, storage for hybrid clouds, and storage for data resiliency. This alignment fits well with how companies are approaching digital transformation.
Storage for data and AI
IBM Storage for Data and AI combines the right mix of high-performance hardware and software-defined capabilities needed to build nearly any solution for general-purpose storage, AI, and data analytics workloads. The components within this framework meet the needs of almost any organization.
The basis for IBM Storage for Data and AI is the IBM Storage Scale System, previously branded as IBM Elastic Storage. IBM Storage Scale enables high-performance and scalable storage, including all-flash and hybrid storage technologies.
IBM couples its Storage Scale System with two software-defined storage offerings. IBM Storage Scale (formerly IBM Spectrum Scale) is a software-defined solution for high-performance storage needs, including AI, ML, and advanced analytics. IBM Storage Ceph, a rebrand of Red Hat Ceph, is the industry’s leading open source solution for software-defined block, file, and object storage.
Storage for the hybrid cloud
Managing data in a hybrid cloud infrastructure is one of the most difficult tasks for a storage administrator. IBM was one of the first technology providers to address the unique challenges of hybrid cloud and continues to deliver some of the most mature and robust solutions in the space.
In November last year, IBM launched its appliance-based HCI solution, IBM Spectrum Fusion HCI. Now called IBM Storage Fusion, the solution is tailored to the specific needs of cloud-native storage. In the IBM world, cloud-native means that Red Hat OpenShift and IBM Spectrum Fusion HCI are designed to seamlessly integrate with OpenShift environments. Of course, if you’re running another flavor of Kubernetes, that’ll work too.
IBM Storage Fusion (formerly IBM Spectrum Fusion) provides IT administrators with advanced capabilities to store, protect, manage, govern, mobilize, and integrate data and applications hosted in Red Hat OpenShift environments. There is no better solution for integrating IBM storage into cloud-native architectures.
IBM Storage Defender
The most demanding and business-critical task of an IT administrator is data protection. With resilient storage offerings, IBM Storage for Data Resiliency helps organizations protect their data from data breaches, threats and even operational failures.
At the heart of IBM Storage for Data Resiliency is IBM’s new Storage Defender offering. Storage Defender combines data protection technology from IBM with data protection capabilities from IBM’s partner and industry-leading data protection company, Cohesity.
IBM Storage Defender includes IBM Storage Protect (formerly IBM Spectrum Protect), IBM Storage Fusion and Cohesity’s DataProtect. Cohesity DataProtect enables users to copy and store data across locations and clouds to ensure data security in the event of a breach or outage. It’s a powerful solution.
The attitude of the analyst
Branding and positioning are not frivolous activities. When you have a portfolio of offerings as broad and diverse as IBM, branding can mean the difference between a customer finding your product and a customer buying from a competitor. If you’re an IT buyer, innovative branding and intuitive positioning can help you find the right solution. IBM delivered innovative branding with its new updates.
IBM’s move from Spectrum to Storage is a good move. It puts storage at the center, while IBM’s framework approach is equally compelling, centered on data protection, hybrid cloud, and data and AI. It’s an oversimplified message that takes IT buyers straight to what they need to solve their storage problems.
The storage world is on the move. While storage hardware remains the foundation for storing data, harnessing and protecting that data is a task for purpose-built software. IBM understands this and has developed one of the most diverse offerings on the market for managing and storing enterprise data. Realigning these offerings and including the new IBM Storage Defender helps IBM better tell that story — and it’s a good story.
Disclosure: Steve McDowell is an industry analyst and NAND Research is an industry research firm that provides or has provided research, analysis and consulting services to many technology companies, which may include those mentioned in this article. Mr. McDowell has no interest in any of the companies mentioned in this article.
follow me Twitter or LinkedIn.