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July 23, 2010

3.009: whither the ds8700, or hath it withered already?

Going, going, gone... My followers know that I've been predicting the demise IBM's enterprise storage platforms (both DS6000 and DS8000 series) for several years now. And though I've been chastised for competitor bashing, I remain convinced that IBM will soon withdraw the DS8000 from marketing once and for all, just as they have the DS6000.

The product just isn't competitive in today's world, even with the unfair advantage IBM enjoys with its tight linkage to it mainframes and servers.

Supporting evidence for the impending demise comes from many directions and sources. Just this week I heard about a competitive deal Down Under where IBM withdrew the DS8700 from a competitive bid in the middle of the selection process. Pressed for an explanation, the new VMAX customer was told that the DS8700 would be EOL by year-end 2010, and IBM didn't want to propose a dead-end product.

How considerate of them!

Now, indeed, this is hearsay, and I can't promote any evidence as to the accuracy of this report. But it is another piece that seems to fit the emerging picture that IBM is winding down the DS8700 as we speak. IDC StorageTracker data shows a rather protracted decline in market share for the DS8000, one that began with the introduction of the Symmetrix VMAX back in April 2009.

In fact, if you compare the IDC StorageTracker data for EMC Symmetrix, IBM DS8K and Hitachi USP-V/VM for the 4 quarters beginning Q2'09, you'll see that VMAX share of the "high end array" pie has grown significantly, while both IBM and Hitachi have lost share dramatically.

Yes, to the attentive observer, it is pretty clear that the DS8K is on its deathbed – at least as we know it today.

is it dying, or just no longer relevant?

Suspicions abound that the DS8K's replacement will be a Frankenstein concoction of SVC heads in front of some form of RBOD – perhaps the newly Moshe-less XIV, or perhaps using the LSI-sourced DS5000 instead (which, if true, would surely be cause for Moshe's sudden departure from Big Blue). Given the pure silence and tantalizing hints from @bwhyte over the past 7 months, I think it is pretty likely that the SVC team is up to something.

Others suggest that the DS8700 won't actually be retired, but instead it will only be used/bundled with IBM z-Series Mainframes. Talk about deja-vu: EMC started this whole external storage market in response to IBM's channel-attached storage lock-in over 21 years ago! But indeed, this is pretty much the only space where IBM has been repeatedly successful – bundling their inferior storage with the mainframe is a pretty good lock-out strategy. Except, of course, most customers are smart enough to know that there is no such thing as "free storage." When customers decouple the purchase they almost always realize that VMAX is the better platform for their mainframe storage.

whoa now, mr. fud-meister!

Before you swing the FUD-axe at my head, humor me one last round: IBM's own TonyP has laid down his own rather disingenuous swath of "FUDder Sauce" in the middle of his coverage of the storage-related components IBM's z10 announcement this week:

One program that takes advantage of this new zDDB feature already is Innovation's [FDRSOS], which I pronounce "fudder sauce". If you are an existing FDRSOS customer, now is a good time to get rid of any EMC or HDS disk and replace with the new IBM DS8700 system.

Once again Tony demonstrates just how out-of-touch with the realities of the market he is: FDR has been supporting Symmetrix arrays with FDRSOS for more than a decade. You can see the details on their web site here: FDRSOS for EMC Storage; one of EMC's engineers that worked with IDP even showed me the original documentation dated back in 1997!

Try to keep up now, Tony!

Tony also points out the DS8700's Full Disk Encryption and Easy Tier features for the z10, even though these two features cannot even be used together! By Tony's own admission, FDE is limited to specific 15K FC drives, and is not available for either Flash or SATA devices on the DS8700 platform!

I guess that's why they call it Easy Tier!

All in good fun, but I'll go out on a limb here and predict that Tony's post is probably a last-gasp attempt to hold up interest in the DS8700 whilst the finishing touches on its replacement are polished up. Given the volume of Tony's FUDder Sauce, I'm guessing that the replacement project is falling behind schedule – perhaps they've found some sort of data corruption issue in the SVC platform or something…

…I dunno I dont know

But I will predict that we will ALL know a lot more by the middle of October…

Meanwhile, don't let IBM sucker your company into buying any more Dead-End DS8700's. And since EVERYONE knows that Hitachi intends to replace the USP-V late this year (or early next), the same goes for their kit.

Yes, my friends, In this market full of has-beens and wanna-bees, VMAX stands alone, ready to meet your enterprise's storage needs.


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Tony Pearson

Tsk Tsk. After your own post "2.045" to try to be good and stick to verifiable facts, you put out this sloppy collection of rumor and hearsay. And after the recent controversy with EMC Payola to outside social media firms that ChuckH had to personally apologize for.

Perhaps because there is nothing good or worthy in EMC's set of products to talk about?

--- Tony P (IBM)

the storage anarchist

I stand by my sources. The no-bid is very real..I look forward to understanding why.


Hey Barry, let me give you a quote from your EMC colleague Chad Sakac (given in a recent Storage Monkeys popcast)

"Never trust any vendor when they talk about what other vendors are doing"

I urge all your readers to take that sentiment to heart when reading your blog post. You truly need to stop this sort of vendor rubbishing (especially when your so off the mark) and focus on promoting your own products.

Also... since I work for IBM 'down under' perhaps you could share with me the name of the client in question? Happy to go and talk to the account team and find out what was really said.


Funny article ! Greetings to all FAST customers the DS8700 is alive and kicking.

the storage anarchist

Anthony -

Fear not...my readers know quite well to take my blog with a healthy pinch of skepticism.

With VMAX outselling the DS8K by something like 2-to-1, it's pretty clear that Easy Tier isn't changing the landscape very much. Perhaps IBM should have done some more extensive customer feedback sessions instead of rushing it to market so fast. It's a pretty lame attempt on so many dimensions, IMHO.

Peter Kimmel

Always good entertainment reading those anarchical lines and ideas. Why should we withdraw a product that we've brought out just last October and which is most successful in the market. Happy to hear that you like our Easy Tier in particular, as you rightfully mention it so often.

-- prk (IBM ATS)

the storage anarchist

Peter -

You guys at IBM crack me up..."most successful in the market" indeed. IDC StorageTracker reports Symmetrix revenues more than twice those of the DS8000 family, so I'm not sure what you are comparing youselves to.

Maybe you meant that it's just the most successful storage product made by IBM...that's no big deal when IBM-built storage products are 3rd at best in every market.


Yikes, this blog entry is like FUD on Viagra; have you considered a career in politics?

John Martin

(NetApp Employee)

If that's your honest opinion of what IBM is planning in the mid - high end space, then your competitive research team either isn't doing their job, or you're not listening to them. I bet the IBM guys are all biting their tongues .. HARD.

You're also falling into the "point one finger, find three more pointing back" trap. Why be worried whether the array you purchase gets updated or replaced with a new model soon ? If it meets the projected performance and functionality requirements at the right price, then buy it and be happy. Even if IBM was to EOA the entire DS range tomorrow, I would expect IBM to give every customer excellent support for the lifetime of that equipment. To sugggest otherwise makes me wonder about EMC customers experiences with its refresh program. Did everyone who purchased a DMX4 in early 2009 make a bad decision ?

the storage anarchist

Party pooper.

Everyone knows what they are actually doing. But my explanation is more fun!


I guess by putting some servers together, add a back end plus some kind of OS and application so call code on top is not a right way to go. It make the machine so hard to recover when there is a problem.
Support? now a day no many customer run on same box for more then 5 to 7 years anyway.


Hi Barry.
Given that EMC often place pressure on bloggers to correct what EMC views as inaccurate or misleading blogs, in the light of IBM's Oct 7 announcements, do you feel any compunction to correct anything you said in this blog post?

the storage anarchist

Anthony -

There's nothing to correct. The DS8K market share losses to VMAX are even more significant today than they were when I wrote this. And in fact, the DS8700 is effectively end-of-lifed by the introduction of its replacement.

Maybe I got the WHY wrong, but the WHAT looks pretty much as I projected. Just because wiser heads prevailed and didn't try to position yet ANOTHER abomination into the "enterprise class" doesn't mean I was wrong. IBM did in fact announce a not-quite-yet-ready new SVC-based mid-range storage array (full features not available until March 31, 2011). And for that matter, they announced the DS8700-killer perhaps even more prematurely, judging by the list of things that didn't make today's announcement:

Other limitations
The following functions are currently not available on DS8800:

• Quick initialization and thin provisioning support
• Remote Pair FlashCopy support
• Easy Tier support
• Multiple Global Mirror session support
• z/HPF extended distance capability support
• z/OS distributed data backup support
• IBM Disk full page protection support
• 16 TB LUN size is not available

And before you swing the FUD-axe, I'll note that TonyP's promise to deliver 8Gb FC for the DS8700 (more than 2 years later than 8Gb was available on VMAX) is hardly investing in the future of this oh-so-obviously dead platform.

But what stood out the most about today's announcements?

Not a mention of XIV, other than to note that the SVC folks lifted the look-and-feel of its GUI for 6.1. Sounds like Moshe left town for the same reason as Randy Moss : he didn't feel appreciated!


Hi Barry.

Glad to see in your response that you admit the possibility you got SOMETHING wrong.


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the storage anarchist

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I am unabashedly an employee of EMC, but the opinions expressed here are entirely my own. I am a blogger who works at EMC, not an EMC blogger. This is my blog, and not EMC's. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by EMC and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of EMC.

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