IBM extends all-flash throughout DS8880 line

IBM announces all-flash versions of its full DS8880 portfolio, but for the channel, impact is likely to be slight because compared to other IBM storage families, this one has a more limited partner presence.


IBM introduced the first all-flash offering in its DS8880 line – the DS8888F – last year. Now it has extended the all-flash option to the other members of the family with the DS8884F and the DS8886F.

IBM first introduced the DS8880 family, their follow-on to the DS8870 family, as hybrid offerings in 2015. The decision to come up with all-flash versions of the DS8880 was motivated as much by the need to position an all-flash version to satisfy analyst expectation as much as it was by market demand.

“Late last year, we released a purely all flash version of DS8880 because we needed to have a purely all- flash version that does not have hard drives for analyst taxonomy,” said Levi Norman, Director of Marketing, IBM Systems, Enterprise Storage. “This was the case even though before we introduced the DS8888F you COULD buy a system that had just flash in it. However, with this announcement, you get an extension of the all-flash family – all-flash systems that do not accept hard drives – throughout the portfolio. We are also releasing the next generation of our high performance flash enclosure.”

The IBM DS8880F all-flash data systems are designed to have exceptional reliability, with consistent microsecond application response times.

“They are designed to support business-critical applications,” Norman said. “They have the deepest integration with our z Systems, but that’s not the selling point, which is the six nines of availability and reliability. The code base is all new and refreshed around all-flash enclosures. The DF8870 controller had flash in there, but the controller was really targeted to drives. These controllers are designed for flash. They will support drives, but they are designed for flash. The result is enormous IOPS performance.”

The DS8884F is branded as business class, the DS8886F is branded as enterprise and the DS8888F as analytics.

“The branding of the three classes is appreciated by analysts, but it also ties in a subtle way into our bigger initiatives around Cognitive and Cloud,” Norman stated. “Cognitive requires a lot of analytics, something the DS8888F is designed for with its millisecond response times. These classifications support where [CEO] Ginni Rometty is taking the company.”

The IBM DS8884F is designed as an entry level business class storage solution with All-Flash performance delivered within a flexible and space-saving package.

“Entry level here means things like trading desks at large financial institutions,” Norman said. “Nineteen of the top 20 banking institutions use them in their primary data paths and wanted an affordable model for other uses. It is flexible in terms of space and price points, and the capacity changes rapidly as you scale up. Both the DS8884 and the enterprise class DS8886 could be used departmentally, but are not targeted that way.

While the analytics-focused IBM DS8888F is associated with mainframes, Norman emphasized that it is far more than that.

“Even though we are attached to the mainframe z Systems, it’s perfectly suited to the open environment,” he said. “That’s the beauty of this product.”

So how much of this is relevant to IBM’s channel. Well, for the DS8888F, it will be very little.

“The DS8888F is more of a handholding sale, and is only for channel partners that are very select and highly skilled,” Norman said.

The DS8000 series as a whole has not been channel-focused, with IBM Storwize and DeepFlash being the main channel products, having between 70 and 80 per cent of the product go through partners.

“I think though that with the DS8884F, you are likely to see more of the channel pick this up,” Norman said. “Some of the DS8884F will go channel, but because of the type of companies that want this technology, it doesn’t flow as much through the channel as the rest of the storage portfolio. But if we have a partner who wants to sell one of these, we can certainly work hand in hand to help them.”

The new family of DS8880F all-flash data systems will be available worldwide on January 20, 2017 from IBM and through IBM Business Partners.