IBM Inks Storage Software Virtualization Deal With Cisco

IBM Tuesday said networking giant Cisco Systems has become the 1,000th customer to buy IBM's storage virtualization software. The deal, which was announced at a conference on Tuesday in Boston,

March 31, 2005

5 Min Read
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Cisco Systems is the 1,000th customer to buy IBM's storage virtualization software, IBM said Wednesday.

The deal, announced at a conference in Cambridge, Mass., seemed a slap in the face to IBM rival EMC, based just miles away in Hopkinton, Mass. IBM said that Cisco fields an all-EMC storage pool, but has purchased two IBM SAN Volume Controllers (SVCs), which are priced in the $50,000 range, to run in conjunction with the Cisco MDS 9500 series of multilayer directors. IBM said the synergy from the combined technology will allow Cisco's IT department to more efficiently manage pools of EMC storage.

IBM said there was no partner involved in the software sale. Andy Monshaw, general manager, storage systems at IBM, called the IBM win at Cisco "a big deal."

"Cisco is well-respected in this business. They know the technology industry," he said.

Rich Lechner, vice president of storage systems at IBM, said the win is a testament to IBM's storage virtualization software, since Cisco's storage pool is "100 percent EMC."A Cisco spokesperson said that the company had just signed the contract with IBM, and that the SVCs had yet to be deployed. However, the SVCs, like virtualization technology from other vendors, will be evaluated as they become available, the spokesperson said.

The different virtualization technologies will meet different operating needs, with IBM's SVC initially being aimed at data protection and data migration, said the spokesperson.

Cisco's internal storage environment includes products from multiple vendors, and the spokesperson would not elaborate on the company's mix of vendors in its data center.

Mark Lewis, executive vice president of EMC, told CRN on Tuesday said that IBM's virtualization strategy is not as open as Big Blue claims.

Most vendors' virtualization products, instead of building on an open architecture that allows customers a choice of management solutions, actually "cannibalize and de-function all of the systems that operate behind that virtualization."To be open, virtualization architecture has to be similar to the server virtualization architecture of VMware, an EMC subsidiary, said Lewis. "If the SVC goes into an environment, and you can't run your SRDF (EMC's storage replication software) that's in an array, is that open?" he said. "It's just not a good implementation, given that customers want to take what they've got and move forward with additive capabilities."

EMC's upcoming Storage Router, on the other hand, will be able to go into a Hitachi or IBM environment and allow customers to run their Hitachi or IBM replication applications, Lewis said. "We can allow the use of any replication (application) that exists in the environment today," he said. "We're completely transparent."

IBM and CERN--the European Organization for Nuclear Research--also announced that IBM storage virtualization software achieved breakthrough performance results in an internal data challenge at CERN. Using IBM TotalStorage SAN file system, the internal test broke performance records by CERN for reading and writing data to disk at rates in excess of 1Gbps for a total I/O of more than 1Pbyte (1 million Gbytes) in a 13-day period.

IBM said most of the 1,000 customers that have deployed IBM storage virtualization, run IBM technology exclusively.

Lechner said the storage virtualization software opportunity which is being driven by IBM represents a huge opportunity for partners. Seventy-five percent of the 1,000 engagements have been done by IBM partners. "This is a very partner-friendly package and price/performance," Lechner said.Monshaw said the software is giving IBM partners the opportunity to go into EMC and Hitachi Data Systems accounts with their "nose under the tent," providing improved return on investment in areas such as migration to heterogeneous storage devices. "We are opening up a brand new world here," Monshaw said.

The storage virtualization opportunity is similar to the opportunity that solution providers saw with server consolidation using Linux, Monshaw said. "I think the killer app right now, especially in information on demand, is virtualization." he said.

IBM also highlighted a deal with Oakwood Healthcare Systems, a hospital network, which purchased SAN volume controllers through IBM partner Logicalis.

Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based partner of both IBM and EMC, said it was interesting that IBM held the conference in Boston. "I've got to hand it to IBM for being clever and making the announcement in EMC's hometown," he said.

Virtualization is real and available to the channel, said Teter. However, he said, it has only started getting traction in the past six months or so thanks to the popularization of server virtualization and to the increasing availability of in-band, out-of-band, and network-based storage virtualization technology.Advanced Systems Group has already closed several deals using the TagmaStore array from Hitachi Data System, said Teter. With TagmaStore, several petabytes of heterogeneous storage systems can be attached to the back-end and managed as a single pool of storage.

The solution provider is now testing IBM's SAN Volume Controller in its lab, and it seems to be working well so far, said Teter. "We can connect to various hosts and various drive technologies, and implement policies (using SVC)," he said. "We are just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel."

While TagmaStore offers high-performance features such as a quarter-Tbyte cache and HDS's crossbar switch backplane, IBM's SVC is lower cost, enabling it to be used in more midrange and enterprise environments, Teter said.

For heterogeneous storage networks, virtualization is a great solution, said Teter. "Before, virtualization was a solution looking for a problem," he said. "Now customers have issues with disparate storage, low utilization, file sharing, and policy controls. Virtualization is a great product to provide a turnkey solution for better management of storage assets."

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