IBM Addresses High End

Latest upgrades underscore increasing reliance on OEM partners NetApp and LSI

August 23, 2006

4 Min Read
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IBM has "turbo" charged its DS8000 enterprise SAN systems around its Power5 processors, while adding the latest Network Appliance enterprise system to its brand and beefing up its replication software. The announcements included the second storage system rollout in two weeks, but today's news concentrated more on the high end of IBM's portfolio.

The additions follow IBM's Aug. 8 upgrade of its midrange DS4000 family based on hardware from LSI Engenio controllers. (See IBM Intros DS4200.)

IBM says the Power5 improves I/Os per second (IOPS) on the DS8100 and DS8300 Turbo systems up to 15 percent over the previous DS8100 and DS8300 models. The new systems also support 4-Gbit/s FICON. Pricing for the DS8100 Turbo family starts at $213,000, and the systems will be available Sept. 9.

Other pieces of the launch include:

  • IBM System Storage N7600 and N7800 systems, based on NetApp's FAS 6030 and 6070 appliances and gateways. The appliances will be available Sept. 1 starting at $140,500 with the gateways to follow Sept. 22 starting at $113,500.

  • Support for three-way replication between sites and TPC For Replication, a replication manager that provides a single interface for its Metro Mirror, Global Mirror, and Flash Copy services, and automates replication between DS8000 and DS6000 systems.

  • Fibre Channel ATA (FATA) drives for the DS8000 and midrange DS6000 system.

As far as a product launch goes, the news was underwhelming. The DS8000 upgrade is a tepid response to EMC's new Symmetrix unveiled earlier this year and Hitachi Data System's TagmaStore, which financial analysts say is winning market share from both EMC and IBM. Still, IBM did beat EMC to 4-Gbit/s on its enterprise system and claimed DS8000 sales increased 10 percent year over year last quarter. (See IBM's Mixed Bag of Storage.)A few other IBM offerings are catch-up products. EMC has offered three-way replication for nearly two years. (See EMC Ratchets Up Replication.} Heweltt-Packard first announced FATA drives in 2004 and EMC followed months later with the same drives, although it calls them low-cost Fibre Channel drives. The drives from all three vendors are all the same -- manufacturer Seagate calls them Nearline drives -- and have Fibre Channel interfaces with the slower spin times of SATA. (See EMC and HP Spin Disk and Mixed Drives in the Mix.)

Analyst John Webster of Data Mobility Group calls the upgrades "incremental," and says IBM's recent storage rollouts show an increasing reliance on OEM partners NetApp and Engenio.

"IBM is having more of a willingness to provide OEM alternatives," says John Webster of Data Mobility Group. "If they can't cover with their own internally developed products, they have a portfolio of other things they can use to keep customers engaged with IBM."

There was speculation when IBM launched the DS6000 in late 2004 that it would eventually drop the lower midrange DS4000 series from Engenio. (See IBM Still Loves Engenio.) But the 4-Gbit/s Engenio systems helped IBM increase its midrange storage 15 percent year over year last quarter, the biggest increase in any IBM storage platform.

"I remember when the DS6000 was first announced, a lot of people were saying, 'That's it, LSI's goose is cooked, the DS4000 is going away,' " Webster says. "That hasn't happened."Craig Butler, brand manager for disk storage product marketing, says there are plans to upgrade the DS6000 -- 4-Gibt/s support is an obvious missing feature -- but there is no timeframe.

Butler agrees that NetApp gear is becoming more important to IBM. With the FAS6000 in the fold, Big Blue is now offering all of NetApp's primary storage systems under the IBM brand. But while NetApp called the FAS6000 an enterprise system when it launched May, Butler says it is not a direct competitor to IBM's DS6000 and DS8000. (See NetApp Scales Up.)

"It is not optimized for Fibre Channel attachment," Butler says of the NetApp system. "Certainly you can attach iSCSI, NAS, and Fibre Channel to the same product and there's a niche for customers who what that and don't want to buy two boxes. But the N700 is for people looking for a NAS box, and the DS8000 and DS6000 are for people looking for a SAN box."

Butler also says IBM has a roadmap to revise its DS300 and DS400 entry-level Fibre Channel and iSCSI systems this year.

Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Data Mobility Group

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • LSI Logic Corp. (NYSE: LSI)

  • Network Appliance Inc.0

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