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September 03, 2008

1.022: are you ready for IBM's frankenstorage announcement?

449pxFrankensteins_monster_Boris_KarI'm not going to Montpelier next week for the Big Launch. For some reason, IBM seems to have forgotten to send me  an invitation. Apparently as much as the storage press corps and the blogosphere have come to expect me to do IBM's marketing for them over the past few weeks, I've not yet earned the early access privileges offered to the "real" press.

Oh well...I'll cope! Striaght Face

I gotta believe this is going to be one weird announcement, though, with lots of positioning and posturing to get all out in one event. I'm predicting the announcement will include:

  • the new XIV, which is supposedly going to obsolete every single storage platform on the planet (except any that IBM sells, of course),
  • a raft of ho-hum catch-up enhancements to now elderly ancient DS8000
  • the new mid-tier DS5000
  • the SVC-with-flash Science Experiment

Not to mention the expected release of the first IBM-branded Diligent-based VTL and probably some backup de-duplication capabilities for Tivoli Storage Manager.

That sure is one helluva smorgasbord of unrelated (if not self-competitive) stuff to include in a single announcement.

One thing's for sure, though, the attendees are going to be armed with lots of questions, if coverage and readership of my posts on the stealth launch of XIV and its absolute lack of Green-ness are any indication. Not to mention Chuck Hollis' outing of the DS5000.

Should be an interesting couple of days in the foothills of France...


the ds8000 tries to play catch up

Take a product that hasn't been significantly enhanced in nearly 4 years, and add whatever you can dredge out of engineering, and you still have a product that's counting it's days to formal EOL.

(And by the way, if there ever was any doubt about the death of the DS6000, look no further than next week's DS5000 announcement.)

Just so nobody thinks I've been sleeping on my self-appointed IBM marketing job, I'll highlight the paltry, johnny-come-lately enhancements that IBM silently rolled out for the DS8000 a couple of weeks ago...enhancements that undoubtedly will be rehashed for the uninformed next week in France:

  • Variable LPARs - pretty cool...so long as your definition of "variable" can be met with a combination of 50/50 or 25/75 of the processors and processor memory. Oh, and so long as you don't mind taking your DS8000 off-line and rebooting it to reconfigure your LPARs. Not quite up to the standard set by Dynamic Cache Partitioning on the DMX (much less the flexibility of true LPARs on a System z mainframe). Four years after they were first announced, you almost wonder why IBM even bothers at this point.
  • RAID-6 - yup, at long last (and nearly 18 months after DMX support was first delivered to market), the DS8000 series can now finally employ RAID 6 storage trays. You'll have to swap out some hardware first, though - apparently the current back-end device adapter cards have to be replaced in order to add RAID-6...a field upgrade that doesn't look to be available until Q4'2008, and that possibly requires an outage to install.
  • 450GB 15K rpm drives - woo-hoo bigger fast drives...unfortunately, performance of these doesn't scale with capacity, so this is a lot like putting a luggage rack on a moped. But every storage vendor will be offering these as soon as they pass their respective qualification cycles, and it looks like IBM wants to be first. Some vendor's qualification processes seem more comprehensive than others, so you might not want to be the first on the block with these...the wise money usually waits until EMC starts shipping them before taking delivery - that's when you know the kinks have been worked out. Course you might not have too much to worry about, it's not like 4-year-old DS8000 technology is going to put any real stress on these drives anyway.
  • 1TB SATA drives - no, you won't be able to get them for the DS8000 this year, but IBM did say that they'll be offering 1TB SATA drives in the DS8000 Turbo models "in early 2009" - about 18 months after SATA was first offered in the DMX-4 (EMC began shipping 1TB drives for DMX-4 this past March 2008). And DMX-4 could well be supporting 1.5TB SATA drives by the time IBM ships the 1TB drives. On the plus side, at least IBM execs haven't been poo-pooing SATA storage for the past year like Hu Yoshida was (right up until the day Hitachi announced SATA support for the USP-V). If they're good enough for XIV, then why not in the DS8000 as well? Big Grin
  • IPv6 - kinda mandatory if you want to do any business with the US government these days, since government procurement has decided to side-step the whole "were do we really need IPv6" debate by stipulating it as a requirement on every RPQ and PO. Oddly, this "new" feature applies only to the DS8000's management network, since the DS8000 doesn't support native IP for remote replication or for iSCSI.
  • IBM Extended Access Volumes (EAV) for System z - this one's kinda weird- the feature name reinforces the fact that this is an IBM-proprietary feature. As such, competing storage suppliers don't have open access to the implementation and thus can never beat IBM to market - which is of course IBM's intent. Fortunately, EMC has the appropriate licensing vehicle with IBM, and thus will be able to add this feature to its offerings in a timely manner. But customers really shouldn't be subjected to this proprietary feature game, IMHO.

Strangely missing from the announcement was any mention of Space-Efficient Volumes for the DS8000 - especially odd since this was a feature announced earlier this year for the SVC. And I don't expect IBM to announce SEV for DS8000 next week either...Pretty much seals the deal that IBM sees the future built around SVC and XIV, with the aged and decrepit DS8000 plugging the hole in the Series z dike for as long as possible.

And while there are rumors that IBM will be announcing support for the STEC ZeusIOPS drives next week, what isn't clear is whether this will be for the DS8000 or for another member of the DS line. Being as IBM only sells disk drives for the DS8000 in 16-drive trays, that'd make the minimum purchase increment rather large (and expensive) - the DMX-4 supports as few as 5 (3+1 RAID group plus a spare) and up to 128 enterprise flash drives (and even more with RPQ).

So, a lot of ho-hum for the DS8000 next week...nothing really newsworthy, and still a far cry short in the features and capabilities department from the DMX-4 (and the USP-V, to be fair). Given all the other "cool" stuff to be (re)announced next week, I'm guessing that the DS8000 enhancements won't get all that much air time. Don't blink, or you might miss it!

Hardly a fitting update for what once was the flagship of the fleet, don't you agree?


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Here's the problem with your anti-XIV blog entries...

There are [already] a lot of enterprise companies evaluating the Nextra. I would bet most of the companies are die-hard EMC customers (as I am). When they get started with the eval, the first thing they are going to notice is how quickly and brain-less it is to power up and configure and assign the first lun. Many will be skeptical about this and try and poke holes in the product. Testing will prove that it's for real, performance is impressive, and that the product is a viable replacement for [at first] CLARiiON arrays. The biggest selling point will be the cost. Regardless of what you keep saying, it's not apples-to-apples when you compare a Nextra and CX or DMX with SATA drives. The Nextra will blow the doors off either one of these. I have the numbers to prove it, but I CANNOT share them. Plus, it INCLUDES synch (async is coming, bla bla bla) replication, snapshots, and array based migrations (think san copy). They are part of the base product, no [ridiculously priced] licenses to buy. The RAID-X technology is what tops the cake. Can a CX or DMX a 1TB drive in 30 mins or less? Those arrays can't even rebuild a 36GB drive in 30 minutes. How about fail a drive, pull a storage shelf (with 12 drives) and still have no data loss/failure. All rebuilt in 45 mins or less. Then pull an interface moduele, or two all while having a 13 drives failed in the box. The thing keeps on humming.

That being said, there are issues with the product. The first is that it's a one-size-fits-all box. I'm not going to put 80TB in a remote office, but I could put a small CX box there. The box is so new, I can't report on it. Even Tivoli can't tell me what my utilization is. Funny thing is, ECC can report on some things... Security is lacking and needs serious improvement (ok, gen2 has roles, but give me a break). Apparently that's coming in a dot release.

The point is, companies are looking seriously at this product. They're doing real hard testing. It's a hard sell to upper mgmt, so they are being really carefull. The product works and works very well. There's no doubt about it, it's very viable and inexpensive replacement for CX and DMX arrays.

Tony Pearson (IBM)

I formally invite you to attend the IBM Storage and Storage Networking Symposium 2008 in Montpellier, France. Your cost will be 1899 Euros plus travel. The registration page is here: https://www-304.ibm.com/jct03001c/services/learning/ites.wss?pageType=page&c=a0015348

(I have added you to our guest list as seats are filling up fast!)

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