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IBM believes in the hybrid cloud, and now it’s backing that with software and a promise.

First, the promise: IBM is committing to spend $1 billion to develop its software storage portfolio over the next five years. As a down payment on that, it’s releasing a new software package called IBM Spectrum Storage.

Spectrum Storage is in part the software layer for IBM’s high-end storage appliance, called XIV. XIV is meant for companies with big data storage needs and high-end requirements, but it’s designed in such a way as to facilitate companies’ moves towards the cloud by serving as the “in-house” cloud while supporting the standards used by public storage cloud infrastructures. IBM notes:

IBM’s Spectrum Storage portfolio can centrally manage more than 300 different storage devices and yottabytes of data.  This device interoperability is the broadest in the industry — incorporating both IBM and non-IBM hardware and tape systems.  IBM Spectrum Storage can help reduce storage costs up to 90 percent in certain environments by automatically moving data onto the most economical storage device — either from IBM or non-IBM flash, disk and tape systems.

With such an omnivorous approach to standards and interoperability, IBM is clearly hoping Spectrum Storage will be more than just a front end for XIV, but will win a central place in big companies’ datacenters as those massive systems start to move to a hybrid cloud architecture, with a mixture of traditional on-premises storage systems, scalable in-house clouds, and public clouds.

The move towards software-driven storage is deliberate, and parallels a wider industry trend. According to a Gartner study cited by IBM, 70 percent of existing storage array solutions will be available as “software only” versions by 2019, and by the following year, 70 to 80 percent of unstructured data will reside in low-cost storage hardware managed by software-defined storage systems.

Part of IBM’s package, IBM Spectrum Accelerate, is already being used on 100,000 servers around the world, IBM says, and is being tested by Netflix, China State Grid, and City of Hope National Medical Center, among other customers. According to IBM:

IBM Spectrum Accelerate enables clients to layer their infrastructure with intelligent features derived from XIV. These features include unique architecture with zero-tuning that can help clients dynamically add storage capacity in minutes versus the months it takes today to add, install and run storage hardware systems

In Netflix’s case, it replaced 16 existing storage systems with three XIV systems, reducing datacenter floor space utilization by 80 percent. I’ve embedded a video from IBM at the bottom of this post that describes Netflix’s use of XIV.

IBM is also open-sourcing the Spectrum Accelerate software, which — presumably — it hopes will spur more interest in XIV.


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