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IBM launches Storwize V7000 storage virtualization platform

Dave Raffo

IBM yesterday launched its first Storwize product – a storage virtualization system without Storwize data compression

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technology – and upgraded its flagship enterprise storage array.

IBM rolled out its Storwize V7000 midrange storage system and DS8800 enterprise system, with IBM executives mostly playing up their new midrange system even if it doesn't include any of the Storwize data compression capabilities.

Storwize V7000: Midrange storage virtualization platform

All the V7000 has to show for IBM's $140 million July acquisition of Storwize is its name. Doug Balog, IBM vice president (VP) of storage, said the plan is to eventually add real-time data compression to all IBM storage systems but it won't appear in the V7000 until next year.

"We bought a compression company, got a great team and a great technology, and we also got a great name to symbolize efficient storage," Balog said of Storwize. "So we're repurposing the name of the company to be our new midrange storage brand."

The V7000 uses the code stack from IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC) block storage virtualization device, the user interface from its XIV enterprise system and the DS8000 platform's RAID stack. As with the SVC, customers can run storage systems from IBM competitors behind the V7000 controller.

The V7000's management features include Easy Tier automated sub-LUN automated tiering software, thin provisioning, dynamic migration and FlashCopy.

The Storwize V7000 system has 2U controller and expansion enclosures. Controller enclosures consist of dual controllers and drives, and expansion controllers only contain drives. The system supports 24 2.5-inch drives or 12 3.5-inch drives, and each controller enclosure can connect to nine expansion enclosures. The V7000 holds 6 Gbps SAS drives and 300 GB solid-state drives (SSDs), and a system can contain 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch enclosures.

Each enclosure can hold 24 TB with 12 2 TB nearline SAS drives or 14.4 TB with 24 600 GB performance SAS drives. A 20U half-rack system can hold 480 TB of raw capacity. The V7000 supports 300 GB 2.5-inch E-MLC (enterprise-grade multi-level cell) SSDs from STEC, and can hold 72 TB of SSD capacity in one system.

A dual-controller system has eight 8 Gbps Fibre Channel and four Gigabit Ethernet iSCSI host ports.

The Storwize V7000 is IBM's only internally developed midrange system. IBM also sells the DS5000 midrange system through its OEM deal with LSI, but recently discontinued the internally developed DS6800 that it had positioned as a high-end midrange/low-end enterprise product. IBM positions the V7000 as competitive with EMC Clariion CX4, HP EVA and Hitachi Data Systems AMS storage.

Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group, called the V7000 launch "interesting yet bizarre.

"What's interesting is that IBM has added yet another storage system to its product line up, one that has a virtual storage spin combining various pieces of intellectual property developed internally along with IP developed via acquisitions," he said. "On one hand, it's great to see IBM leveraging all of its technologies. What's bizarre is that they have confused the market for those who know of the Storwize name instead of using the known SVC brand."

IBM's Balog said there shouldn't be much confusion because Storwize had approximately 100 customers and doesn't have great brand recognition.

"Now is the right time to change the name," he said. "The original Storwize company wasn't too huge."

While "repurposing" the name for its new midrange array, IBM took the Storwize brand off Storwize's original product. The IBM Real-time Compression Appliance that handles file compression is the same product Storwize sold before the acquisition.

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at Taneja Group, said he expects to see the underlying virtualization technology of the V7000 incorporated throughout IBM's storage platforms.

"If this is a scalable architecture, IBM should be able to take these products up and replace the DS8700 and maybe the DS8800 in the enterprise," he said. "IBM didn't want to impact its entire product line, so it left the DS8000 series as is and attacked the midrange because it didn't have its own product there. In time, everything they've done in this product is going to permeate to other products. How well it performs and [is] accepted in the market will influence how quickly."

The V7000 also gives IBM another storage platform to go with the DS3000, DS5000, XIV and DS8000 families. The DS5000 is a midrange system, but IBM's Balog said it doesn't compete with the V7000.

"We've had a 15-year relationship with LSI, and that will continue," he said. "The midrange is a $9 billion market, and we weren't participating as much as we thought we should have been. The DS5000 doesn't have thin provisioning, or advanced replication and storage efficiency features. Both products will exist as long as the marketplace wants them to exist."

"These are all fundamentally different products and have to be managed different," Taneja added. "I think for the next two or three years they're going to have to deal with this mixed environment. I would expect that if this SVC-based product prevails, we'll see that become pervasive."

DS8800 adds scale, power to IBM's enterprise storage

The DS8800 consists of incremental changes from the IBM's DS8700 high-end enterprise SAN system, with most of the microcode remaining the same. The major design change is that the DS8800 has front-to-back cooling instead of the DS8700's chimney design of taking cold air from front and back and sending hot air out the top.

The DS8800 scales higher than the DS8700, and uses faster Power6-plus processors with dual-core 8 Gbps Fibre Channel and FICON host adapters. It also supports 2.5-inch 6 Gbps SAS drives. The denser DS8800 holds 1,000 drives in three frames vs. five frames required for the same amount of drives on the DS8700.

IBM's Balog said Easy Tier is a driver for Flash adoption because it lets customers move data from solid-state drives to hard drives without manual intervention. Easy Tier first became available for the DS8700 in May but won't be available for the DS8800 until next year. Balog said that's because the DS8000 platform staggers hardware and software releases, and the schedule calls for the DS8700 and DS8800 to move to a common code stack in the first half of next year.

The DS8800 competes with the EMC Symmetrix, HDS Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) and HP StorageWorks P9500 (built on the HDS VSP technology). Although IBM executives who spoke at the product launch in New York referred to the DS8800 as IBM's flagship storage system, they devoted far more time to the V7000.

"It's also odd how IBM spun the high-end DS8000 upgrade announcement into a virtual launch for the VS7000," StorageIO Group's Schulz said, especially after HDS made a big splash with its VSP last week.