IBM's Monshaw Talks Virtual

IBM storage boss scopes out virtualization, NAS, and EMC

April 23, 2005

6 Min Read
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It's shaping up as a pivotal year for IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and Andy Monshaw got there just in time. As part of an executive rotation, he returned as group general manager in January, after five years elsewhere in the company.

Here's what he found: IBM is in the early stages of shipping its new DS8000 and DS6000 SAN systems; it hopes to cash in on its early-adopter advantage in virtualization with the San Volume Controller (SVC); and it recently agreed to sell Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) NAS systems instead of its own. (See IBM's New Shark Tale, IBM SVC Hits 1,000 Mark, and IBM, NetApp Ink OEM Pact.)

All these moves have a common theme -- to steal a march on EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), which is the market leader in SAN revenues and is battling NetApp for NAS superiority. EMC is also about to challenge SVC with a storage router (see EMC Takes Storage Router for a Spin).

We recently caught up with Monshaw to ask him about these topics, as well as the emerging role of blade servers in storage. Monshaw, who most recently served as CFO of IBMs Systems and Technology Group, also discussed how the industry has changed since he was the storage CFO at IBM in 2000.

Byte and Switch: What about virtualization? Why are we hearing so much about it now?Monshaw: At IBM we’ve been doing virtualization for 35 to 40 years. We’ve been doing storage virtualization for 10, maybe 20 years. But it's really kicked up here in the last three to five years because of the explosion of data out there. When I was in storage back in 2000, it was all about price per terabyte. That’s all anyone cared about. Now, the game-changing technology is virtualization. Virtualization allows you to take data stored on EMC, HP, IBM, and aggregate that and manage that data. Then you surround it with the right kinds of software.

Byte and Switch: What problems does virtualization solve for customers?

Monshaw: I met with a large telecom in France recently. They’re not an IBM shop -- there’s no IBM kit in terms of storage. Their rep told me, "I need a dual-vendor strategy, because I need a fair price comparison so I know I’m not getting gouged. My second problem? Migration. Every time I put something in it takes months.” So I said, "OK, what if I told you with virtualization you go from two months to migrate an array to a couple of hours?’"

Virtualization technology also allows the customer to choose the vendor they want at any layer and force the vendors to compete on a level playing field. It’s going to do for storage what Linux did for the server market back in the late ‘90s. Sun had a proprietary lock, but Linux came in and you could compete at each layer of the infrastructure.

Byte and Switch: Will all the different types of virtualization confuse people?Monshaw: Everybody’s jumping on the virtualization bandwagon. NetApp announced their virtualization filer [V-Series]; EMC’s going to come out with something soon; Hitachi’s got it in the array -- so it’s here, and there will be different delivery vehicles (see NetApp Makes Virtual Upgrade). There won’t be one way customers want to use it. But I’m confident we’re right here, and I see everybody else trying to catch up.

Byte and Switch: Can you see IBM eventually offering virtualization in the switch or in the array like Hitachi? [See Hitachi Struts Mr. Universal.]

Monshaw: I would not rule out any delivery vehicle, and I think there’s room for it in different places. I think virtualization on the switch or in the array has a place. I don’t rule out doing a switch, or doing an array the way Hitachi does it. Hitachi has software that acts as a virtualization layer, not unlike our SAN Volume Controller except it doesn’t virtualize the copy services.

Byte and Switch: What do you expect from EMC's Storage Router?

Monshaw: We don’t exactly know what it looks like, but best we can tell, it may have a place for very high end, large account, EMC-only customers. You don’t do away with any of the proprietary copy services; you don’t do away with PowerPath; you don’t do away with any of the built-in infrastructure you have to pay for anyway. So basically it virtualizes the EMC stuff and it’s just added another layer.Byte and Switch: Why did you choose to sell NetApp’s NAS instead of your own? [See IBM Turns a New NAS Leaf – Again.]

Monshaw: It was to fill the void in what we could offer customers. Our customers’ infrastructures required a NAS offering, and we want to make sure we’re able to bring it together for the customer so they don’t have to piece it together themselves.

Byte and Switch: Why did your NAS offerings fail?

Monshaw: I don’t think we put enough behind it, I really don’t. We tried about five years ago to really take a run at NAS, but I think it was before the NAS market took off. When I was here [in storage] in 2000, market research firms forecast that NAS would be a $10 billion market in 2005. We thought the NAS market would be bigger than the SAN market by now. But revenue streams weren’t there. When we tried to get into it, we were a little bit ahead and it was a little bit heavy, so we took a crack at it and we recognized we have a partner with NetApp that has market leadership and great products.

Byte and Switch: Besides EMC, who do you consider your main competition?Monshaw: We don’t see HP much, don’t see much of Sun. We do see Hitachi and EMC. EMC’s a big competitor -- it would be foolish to say that we don’t see them. They’re everywhere. They’re in many of our deals.

Byte and Switch: How big of a role will blade servers play in storage?

Monshaw: Blades are going to be the next big thing. Blade servers continue to grow. There are a couple ways to think of blades in storage. First, we have customers like large retailers who want to do "store in a box." So you take their complex infrastructure and you consolidate it down into a single rack of BladeCenters, and it’s all managed remotely. So you can manage retail stores all over the world back at one central location. You have a compact BladeCenter where anyone can go take a blade out and put one in; it’s not complicated.

Another thing we’re seeing is, many blade implementations use two-thirds of the center, so it leaves space there. That’s the perfect opportunity for further consolidation to move attached rackmounted storage right into the BladeCenter. I’m very confident this is where some of our competitors can’t even hope to go.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch0

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