The new storage and server organization at IBM has achieved what was thought impossible - prizing out a core Easy Tier technology from the 8000 group, extracting a storage controller from the SVC group with all the SVC functionality included in the price, annexing the Storwize name from the just completed real-time compression acquisition, purloining the graphic interface from the IBM XIV and mixing them all with the latest SAS-2 disk drive technology. The result is the IBM Storwize V7000, a humdinger of a product that could compete aggressively against the best of NetApp V series, 3PAR (now HP), Hitachi VSP, & IBM XIV at the low end of in the virtualized tier 1.5 market. How it avoided being aborted by special interests is a mystery, though there has been some careful handicapping to ensure against runaway success.
The characteristics of tier 1.5 are:
- Virtualization is a fundamental design point,
- Strong focus on ease of use,
- Storage efficiency functionality built on the virtualization base,
- Good enough performance & availability,
- Good balance between cost of storage and cost of deployment.
The V7000 compares well with other tier 1.5 offerings from 3PAR, NetApp, Compellent, IBM XIV, and Hitachi mid-range VSP. It is a light in storage efficiency compared with best of breed tier 1.5 (missing effective iSCSI support, file support, compression and deduplication in the array), but scores very well on performance. Like Compellent, the Storewize V7000 bundles the cost and maintenance of software.
Together with the Hitachi VSP, the Storewize V7000 has the ability to virtualize heterogeneous disks from most competitors, which allows easy migration of data to the Storwize V7000. It also allows the re-purposing of storage assets that can take advantage of high functioning storage array software.
This array functionality includes:
- High-performance SAS disks with 8Gbps FC ports,
- Easy Tier (dynamic HDD/SSD management),
- RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10,
- Storage Virtualization (Internal & External disks),
- Non-disruptive data migration,
- Global & Metro Mirror (asynchronous and synchronous replication),
- FlashCopy (space efficient snaps of up to 256/volume),
- Thin Provisioning.
FlashCopy Manager is not included in the bundle and is probably a prerequisite to enable effective consistent snaps of ubiquitous applications such as Oracle, DB2, SAP SQLServer and Microsoft Exchange. It is also required for managing snaps, and for effective data recovery from those snaps.
Did the vested interests succeed in carefully handicapping the Storewize V7000 so avoid turf wars?
- The November 12 availability is for only for five (5) enclosures (120 drives, 72TBytes true SAS). March 2011 the V7000 will be allowed to double to ten (10) enclosures.
- Isn’t time to market important?
- The storage ports are fixed at eight 8Gbps FC and 4 1Gbps SCSI.
- Isn’t there iSCSI competition in this market sector?
- It has just two active/active controllers with just 16GB of cache.
- And the reason for limiting the amount of internal and external storage is?
- It has no compression or de-duplication storage efficiency function.
- But the name implies….? (IBM execs have said the compression would be introduced across the board in the IBM storage arrays.)
The Storwize V7000 is very well architected for performance and will be ideally suited for ill-mannered and unpredictable workloads, especially database and exchange workloads. As noted above, it has been handicapped. If the array were allowed to scale fully, it would compete effectively at the upper boundaries of Tier 1.5 against 3PAR all the way down to the entry levels of tier 1.5 where Compellent is very strong.
The integration of external virtualization of heterogeneous storage into the array works well, and with the Hitachi VSP also offering this function, it should accelerate acceptance of this paradigm for both companies.
IBM needs to let this product fly aggressively. It needs better scaling, better iSCSI support, and improved storage efficiency with compression/de-duplication.
Action Item: If IBM executes on the promise of this product, storage executives will find a ready home for the V7000 to deal with problem workloads and yet be easy to manage with full function storage virtualization. Storage executives should pressure IBM hard for the rapid expansion of functionality and scale for this potentially excellent product.