IBM Announces SmartCloud Storage

Well, it was Tuesday again, and we had quite a lot of announcements here at IBM this week! Over 1,800 clients attended the [Live February 5 webcast]! The announcements were all part of IBM’s SmartCloud Storage portfolio. Here are the highlights:

STN7800 Real-time Compression Appliance

Back in October 2010, IBM announced the acquisition of Storwize, Inc., renaming its NAS-compression units to the IBM Real-time Compression appliances. Some folks were confused, so I had a blog post [IBM Storwize Product Name Decoder Ring]. IBM initially offered two models:

  • The [STN6500 model] had 16 Ethernet ports 1GbE (16x1GbE) and a pair of four-core processors.
  • The [STN6800 model] had either eight 10GbE ports (8x10GbE), or four 10GbE plus eight 1GbE ports (4x10GbE+8x1GbE). It has a pair of six-core processors.

Now, IBM offers the [STN7800 model], which can replace either of the ones above, offering 16x1GbE, 8x10GbE, and 4x10GbE+8x1GBE port configurations. It has a pair of eight-core processors to handle more robust Cloud Storage environments. See [Announcement Letter 113-012] for more details.

New XIV Gen3 model 214

With its awesome support for VMware, the XIV is often chosen for Cloud storage. The new XIV model 214 now offers up to a dozen 10GbE ports, or you can stay with the 22 1GbE ports available on previous models. These can be used for iSCSI host attachment and/or IP-based replication.

IBM strives to make each new model of every storage device more energy efficient than the last. The new XIV model is no exception. The original XIV, introduced in 2008, consumed 8.4 kVA fully loaded. The XIV Gen 3 model 114 consumed 7.0 kVA. This new model 214 consumes only 5.9 kVA!

It has been almost three years since my now infamous post [Double Drive Failure Debunked: XIV Two Years Later]. Back then, the XIV offered only 1TB and 2TB drives, with rebuild time for 1TB drive of less than 30 minutes, and for 2TB less than 60 minutes.

The new XIV Gen3 software 11.2 release, available for both the 114 and 214 models, can now rebuild a 2TB drive in less than 26 minutes, and a 3TB drive in less than 39 minutes. There is also support specific to Windows Server 2012 including thin provisioning, MSCS, VSS, and Hyper-V. See [Announcement Letter 113-013] for more details.

SmartCloud Storage Access
SmartCloud Storage Access Login Screen

IBM is the first major storage vendor to offer a product of this kind, so understanding it may be a bit difficult.

The concept is simple. Rather than having end-users having to ask IT every time they need some storage space, IBM created a self-service portal that frees up the IT department to work on more important transformational projects.

This is basically what people can do with “Public Cloud” storage service providers, so basically IBM is now giving you the capability with your “Private Cloud” storage deployment.

SmartCloud Storage Access Architecture

Here is the sequence of events. End users point their favorite web browser to the self-service portal, and login using their credentials stored in your Active Directory or LDAP server database.

Once validated, the end-user now can request new storage space, expanding their existing space, or returning the space to the IT department. For new storage requests, users can have a choice of storage classes, — such as Gold, Silver and Bronze– defined in the Tivoli Storage Productivity Center (TPC), either stand-alone or in the SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center.

But wait! Do you want to give every end-user a blank check to provision their own storage? Most IT staff are horrified at the thought.

Knowing this, IBM has included an option to put in an approval process, based on the end-user and the amount of capacity requested. The approver can be the cloud administrator, or someone delegated for approvals, known as an environment owner.

SmartCloud Storage Access Administration

For some users, policies may restrict the storage classes as well. For example, Fred can only have Silver or Bronze, but not Gold.

Once the approval is obtained, TPC then issues the appropriate commands to the appropriate SONAS or Storwize V7000 Unified device. SmartCloud Storage Access can do this for thousands of storage devices across dozens of geographically dispersed locations.

Before, the Cloud Admin had to configure storage pools of managed disks, define file systems, dole out file sets to hundreds or thousands of users with hard quotas, and then configure shares based on the protocols required, like CIFS, NFS, HTTPS, etc.

With SmartCloud Storage Access, the Cloud admin still defines the pools and file systems, but then lets the self-service capability of the software to create the file sets, set the quotas and configure shares with the appropriate protocols. This greatly reduces the work on the IT staff, and greatly improves the turn-around time for end-user requests to get exactly what they want, when they need it.

The next time you withdraw money from an ATM machine, fill up your gas tank at the self-service gas station, then serve your own salad at the salad bar and fill up your own soft drink at the fast food restaurant, you will realize and appreciate that SmartCloud Storage Access is a brilliant move for the IT staff.

Cloud administrators, environment owners, and end-users can all use SmartCloud Storage Access to monitor and report on storage usage.

See [Announcement Letter 213-087] for more details.

For more information on these announcements, check out the [IBM Smarter Storage landing page].

For a different perspective on this, consider Dave Vallente’s thoughts on Wikibon, in his [Message to IBM's Ambuj Goyal: A Prescription for Storage Transformation]. Ironically, Ambuj Goyal was my fifth-line manager for the past two years, but since he took this new job leading Storage and System Networking, he is no longer in my management chain.

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