IBM fills all-flash enterprise gaps with three new arrays

IBM says the three new all-flash models aimed at the higher end of the market will be a strong channel play.

IBM A9000

The IBM FlashSystem A9000

IBM has announced three new all-flash storage arrays which are aimed at specific use cases within the enterprise. The FlashSystem A9000 and FlashSystem A9000R portfolio come from IBM’s Spectrum Accelerate software line, and are focused on cloud-based applications and workloads for private clouds, and cloud service providers. The other new model, the IBM DS8888, is an all-flash system designed to be attached to mainframes.

“These three new arrays are system-based, in contrast to our software-defined storage offerings,” said Woody Hutshell, Manager of FlashSystem Portfolio Strategy at IBM. “Two of these are powered by our IBM Spectrum Accelerate software, which also powers our XIV product line and hybrid solutions. These are the A9000 and A9000R.” In IBM’s all-flash lineup, they are positioned above the FlashSystem 900 and FlashSystemV9000, which are based on IBM’s Spectrum Virtualize Software, and which were announced a little over a year ago.

Both the FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R offer strong performance capable of quickly accessing large amounts of data for cloud-based applications and workloads. They feature IBM FlashCore technology, and offer top-of-the-line minimum latency of 250μs (microsecond). Both also incorporate data reduction features, including pattern removal, deduplication and real-time compression. Pricing is as low as $1.50 per gigabyte – not the least expensive available today by any means for all-flash, but certainly competitive within its market.

While there is a logical segmentation of the markets between the A9000 and the A9000R – the A9000R’s grid architecture is designed for greater scaling – Hutshell said it’s not as simple as the A9000R being a better fit for larger customers and cloud service providers.

“It isn’t totally delineated by the size of the organization,” he said. “It’s delineated by how they manage their systems. The good news is they have the flexibility of fitting how they want to deploy systems and how they want to scale.”

As an example, Hutshell pointed to IBM SoftLayer, one of the key sources of information in determining IBM’s requirements for the two systems.

“We found that IBM SoftLayer preferred the A9000 because it fits the way they grow better,” he said. “In particular, they use the A9000’s Hyper-Scale manager capability, which makes it possible to easily manage large numbers of units from a single interface.”

Hutshell indicated that the A9000 is also a good option for smaller cloud providers.

“It’s a good option for, say, a reseller who has become an Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider, because it has a lower entry point from a capacity point of view,” he said. It also comes fully configured, which helps cut costs.

Hutshell also indicated that the A9000R certainly has features that appeal to cloud service providers.

IBM A9000R

The IBM FlashSystem A9000R

“Cloud service providers have different requirements, including requiring Quality of Service features like making sure one app doesn’t steal cycles from another customer’s environment – a noisy neighbor environment,” he said. “However the A900R is also a good fit for organizations implementing private clouds, where they want to differentiate between the internal customers. The scaling also makes it attractive for larger enterprises.”

The third new offering, the DS8888, comes from IBM’s DS line, which uses IBM’s power servers as storage controllers and is interoperable with mainframes. It boasts the same performance and low latency as the other two new models. It also accelerates customer databases and data-intensive applications for improved performance.

“It is a storage system, designed to be attached to mainframes, and so will work well in an open system environment, but its primary sweet spot is tied to the mainframe,” he said. “It is designed to work with them, whereas the A systems have no way to talk to them. It is also highlighted by extreme reliability and availability, because of the architecture of the system.”

While these new models are aimed at the high end of IBM’s all-flash offerings, Hutshell pointed out that the flash market has been mainly a channel market for IBM.

“Historically, about 80 per cent of our flash system sales have been through channel partners,” he said. “We see the channel as central to the success of these products. These fill key gaps in the market, and we can now fit every major enterprise requirement for all-flash storage.”

The A9000 and A9000R will be available April 29. The DS8888 will be available June 10.