IBM’s Storage Tank Looks to Shell Rivals

IBM Monday dropped the equivalent of a storage bomb against rival systems
vendors EMC , HP and Hitachi Data Systems
(HDS) with the official unveiling of a new storage area network (SAN)
file system that lets customers share billions of diverse

Armonk, N.Y.’s IBM pulled back the curtain on a finished product derived from suite
of experimental technologies it dubbed “Storage Tank,” which has been baking
in the company’s Almaden Research Center for the last five to six years. The
finished product is called TotalStorage SAN File System and it’s designed to
provide one medium of control to manage storage devices and data, as opposed
to multiple control points.

Managing disparate file systems has been a nightmare for IT managers.
Crafting a SAN that shares an almost limitless amount of files irrespective
of their make-up has been a challenge for storage vendors — until now,
according to IBM. The SAN File System pools servers in multiple locations
over an IP network, allowing the distributed storage network to have the
look and feel of a local file system.

Bruce Hillsberg, director of storage software strategy and technology at
IBM, said the point of the SAN File System is to help companies with large
data warehousing needs and customers deploying grid computing environments
become more competitive by providing an easier way for administrators to
manage the massive amounts of data that is stored.

Hillsberg told that in today’s environment, SANs
have lots of application servers, all of which have different file systems.
The traditional thorn in the side of administrators is that each file system
is managed separately, making it difficult to set consistent user policies,
or instructions on how the files can be accessed. It’s also a challenge to
manage the space in a SAN, he said.

“Every operating system has its own file system with its own way to manage
it” Hillsberg explained. “Instead of trying to build software that tries to
hide or mask those differences we’ve built software that automatically
manages it from the beginning.”

Hillsberg also said one of the reasons why a product like San File System is
important is that many enterprises organize data in different ways and
attach different significance to their data. That is to say, some data is
managed via high-end storage arrays while some is less critical and
corralled through lower-cost storage. This storage is managed manually,
server by server and file by file, making it time consuming.

The new IBM file system automatically sets policies and shuttles data to the
appropriate server pools based on their degree of importance. Such
“modernization” off the file system increases workers’ productivity.
Designed to support thousands of computers, SAN File system also features
distributed file locking and file-based FlashCopy to jazz up file sharing,
and boosts productivity by automating routine data management tasks.

Forrester Research analyst Anders Lofgren said the technology looks solid,
noting that it has been a long time coming.

“I think when you take a look at it has the potential to significantly
change the way end-users manage storage,” Lofgren said. The caveat, he said,
is to convince end-users to migrate to the new architecture. “IBM has
attempted as much to make it as non-intrusive as possible. Customers don’t
have to rip and replace existing hardware with new products. The software
lets them take a more phased approach.”

While other vendors don’t have comparable products, Lofgren said companies
like HP and EMC are working to address the same problem in different ways.

The SAN File System will be available November 14 at $90,000 for a starter
configuration through resellers and IBM.

In related news, Big Blue busted out additional upgrades Monday, including
the latest iteration of IBM TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller software, the
company’s virtualization technology that is designed to support storage disk
arrays from other storage vendors, including Hitachi and Hewlett Packard.
This will be available for download from IBM’s Web site on November 14 and
is accompanied by for the Cisco MDS 9000 Caching Services Module.

IBM Monday also unveiled new intelligent management capabilities in its Tivoli line for its zSeries mainframes.

They are: Tivoli Management Portal, which interfaces directly with IBM zSeries performance monitoring tools, providing a single point of visibility across the entire zSeries operating system; Tivoli Storage Optimizer, a new tool delivering near real-time monitoring of an organization’s storage environment; and Tivoli Performance Modeler, which gives users the ability to develop performance models for IT resource capacity planning.