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David Hill
David Hill
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IBM's STG Is On Track With Smarter Computing

IBM's Systems & Technology Group (STG) represents, among other things, the hardware heritage of IBM, such as the mainframe, open systems servers and storage. But STG is deeply aligned with the company's software and services capabilities. IBM's annual STG analyst meeting is designed to bring industry (not financial) analysts up to speed on the group's strategy and direction.

But Watson is not the end of the story. Watson uses the basic Von Neumann architectural concepts that have dominated the computing industry for decades. IBM is working in its lab on cognitive computing, which among other things will lead to chips that mimic the way the brain works. Stay tuned. The IT revolution will continue to transform our lives for a long time to come.

As a storage analyst, I would be remiss if I didn’t touch upon the storage strategy discussed at the STG event. While not as headline-grabbing as Smarter Planet or Watson, hardware in the form of servers, storage, and networking continues to be a foundational technology for all of IBM’s broader efforts. And the dependence on large quantities of data, and the fact that the data explosion continues unabated, means that storage is front and center. The twin underpinnings of IBM’s storage strategy — efficiency and optimization — are mandatory if promises to derive great value from the data explosion are to be met without going broke paying for storage on the way.

Efficiency and optimization are sometimes used interchangeably. Efficiency has been defined (by the late management guru Peter Drucker) as doing things right. Optimization is a maximization play (getting the most that is possible) or a minimization play (expending the least resources). This increasing storage utilization could be seen as an efficiency play. Moving data to the proper storage tier (i.e., one that best meets the price/performance requirements for the data being managed) could be considered a maximization of available resources play. Using tape instead of disk for certain applications (such as active archiving) can be a minimization play (reducing energy costs by having idle tapes is the lowest that you can go in saving energy).

IBM illustrated its optimization and efficiency points through its Easy Tier and Active Cloud Engine solutions. Easy Tier can migrate data among up to three tiers of data (typically SSD and a variety of disk and/or tape systems). That provides cost efficiencies through better utilization on a cost basis (data requiring low performance is stored on more cost effective storage media).

The Active Cloud Engine is about providing efficiency and optimization for data in the cloud, where a single view of the data from multiple geographically distributed sites is necessary. Easy Tier might be seen as the internal vertical hierarchy approach, and Active Cloud Engine might be seen as a horizontal approach that works across geographically dispersed sites as necessary. Buying storage is not a simple commodity play at one site with one tier of storage anymore, but rather a hopefully rational process which examines complex requirements and determines the proper solution.

David Hill is principal of Mesabi Group LLC, which focuses on helping organizations make complex IT infrastructure decisions simpler and easier to understand. He is the author of the book "Data Protection: Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance." View Full Bio
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