IBM is a supplier actively promoting the concept of storage hypervisors. We think it will work well with large existing customers, but will have challenges in competing against software-only approaches of other contenders. Its relevant offerings include its SAN Volume Controller (SVC), its Tivoli (Storage) Productivity Center, which IBM tends to bundle, but is not actually a prerequisite of adopting SVC. For many years it has insisted on Open Systems and the inclusion of other vendors’ arrays in its management approach.

IBM Storage Hypervisor Customers
We believe SVC has been very successful for those Enterprise (typically mid market) customers who wish to connect arrays from a number of vendors. It would be unlikely for large customers with major single workloads, such as Banks managing ATM networks, to use SVC as a layer on top of their storage solutions. In recent discussions we’ve come across 2 interesting clients. In particular:

  • Ricoh America introduced SVC in 2004 and TPC later. SVC covers a total of 1.2PB of storage (85% of the company’s total) on three different IBM array types. Ricoh reports making significant cost savings through increased utilisation, moves LUNs around regularly and manages its operations without a single member of staff exclusively dedicated to storage. It also believes that IBM’s Open Systems approach minimises the potential of vendor lock-in.
  • LV 1871 (a medium sized insurance company) is another IBM customer which claims to have reduced costs and improved performance through replacing its earlier point-to-point connections with tiered storage under SVC, which runs as a software layer under farms of virtual machines running on its Power and x86 based servers.

Of course IBM generates revenues for its Global Services group from these types of engagement. SVC can also be used for account capture, since it allows for the slow replacement of competitors’ arrays if IBM is successful in becoming the preferred vendor. Neither of these have specific relevance to IBM’s role as a storage hypervisor vendor however.

Stretching To Midrange And Beyond Arrays
SVC is currently an Enterprise solution (given that it only supports Fibre Channel arrays) and IBM will need to apply it to smaller environments in order to succeed with mid-market and SMB customers. IBM’s Storwize V7000 is its first move, accommodating both internal arrays and SVC. It is also working with VMware for SVC capabilities to work as vCenter plug-ins.
Eventually IBM believes the concept of storage hypervisors can be applied to tape as well as disk and that Cloud storage (such as Nirvanix and Amazon) could be brought under common management.

Evaluating IBM As A Storage Hypervisor Supplier

  • Heterogeneous array attachment – SVC allows arrays from other storage suppliers to brought under management; it has invested strongly in Tivoli over the last few years
  • Common server hypervisor attachment* – SVC works on AIX, Windows and Linux operating systems and within PowerVM, VMware ESX and KVM server hypervisors; IBM addresses virtual server and desktop environments
  • Hardware/software market approach – this is not a software-only approach, despite IBM’s status as the third largest software vendor; its challenge is to act and appear as an independent supplier in non-IBM environments and user accounts
  • Supplier power/breadth – IBM has one of the broadest go-to-market approaches of all systems suppliers, as well as up- and down-stream partnerships to address the technical challenges as VMware and other virtual environments develop

Notes: *it may be confusing, however it looks likely that all storage hypervisors will need to be fitted into the management software associated with specific server hypervisors and their virtual environments

Although its approach will give some customers less reason to buy IBM arrays perhaps, SVC and TPC will help in acquiring new customers, as they won’t need to jettison their existing equipment from EMC, NetApp and others. IBM’s absence from the PC hardware market raises some challenges in the virtual desktop interface area. IBM’s Global Services has strong consulting and implementation capabilities for large customers.
Storage hypervisors have relevance to our virtualisation, data intelligence, resource efficiency and go-to-market themes. The suppliers pursuing the concept are undoubtedly rainmakers if they succeed in bringing the kinds of advantages VMware has delivered in the server market.

Storage hypervisors have relevance to our virtualisation, data intelligence, resource efficiency and go-to-market themes. The suppliers pursuing the concept are undoubtedly rainmakers if they succeed in bringing the kinds of advantages VMware has delivered in the server market.

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