IBM's New Shark Tale

New virtualization features highlight Big Blue's new high-end mainframe storage [UPDATED 10/12 3:30 PM]

October 13, 2004

3 Min Read
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NEW YORK -- IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) today introduced the replacement to its Shark mainframe storage system, with a new type of virtualization that one Big Blue executive said gives the company "bragging rights" over competitors EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS).

IBM unveiled the DS8000 enterprise system and the DS6000 modular high-end midrange controller, about a month after HDS unveiled its TagmaStore high-end system (see Hitachi Struts Mr. Universal). EMC refreshed its Symmetrix line in February (see EMC Hits Hardware Refresh). IBM's systems will be generally available Dec. 3.

"This gives us the bragging rights," boasted IBM's storage systems GM, Dan Colby, about his new products.

The DS8000, based on IBM's 64-bit Power5 processor, will replace the Shark. The system will originally be available in two-way and four-way controller configurations, with an eight-way version planned for next year and a 12-way system possibly down the road.

IBM's DS8000 handles virtualization different than the competition. While HDS does virtualization in the controller and EMC plans virtualization on intelligent switches, IBM's new system does virtualization at the chip level (see EMC on Virtualization: Wait for Us). Using the Power5's IBM Virtual Engine, the DS800 can divide servers into logical partitions (LPARs). Each LPAR can run different storage systems that run separate code."It's an interesting trend," analyst Mike Kahn of The Clipper Group Inc. says of IBM's new partitioning features. "You can run different operating systems, even different releases of operating systems on isolated LPARs."

Colby says borrowing features from IBM's server technology gives it an advantage over EMC and Hitachi, which are a pure storage plays. "The competition will tell you about how they're a storage company and storage company only," he says. "We encourage them to talk like that. We're a systems company and we leverage that."

The DS8100 dual-controller system will scale to 115 Tbytes and support a 128-Gbyte cache. The DS8300 quad-controller configuration scales to 192 Tbytes with a 256-Gbyte cache. Both configurations support up to 128 Ficon or Fibre Channel drives and 64 Escon drives. Pricing begins at $250,000 for the DS8100, but LPAR capability is available only on the DS8300.

The IBM DS6000 is a dual-controller system positioned against EMC Clariion CX700 and Symmetrix DMX800. Unlike the DS8000, it is built on IBM's previous PowerPC processor and lacks the sophisticated partitioning features of the DS8000.

The DS6000 is a 5.25-inch cabinet configuration that supports 16 drives and 13 expansion drawers that hold 16 drives each. The system will likely win traction as a low-end mainframe play, but its lack of SATA support will likely hurt it as an open system. The DS6000 will support up to 67 Tbytes with a 4-Gbyte cache, and eight FC or Ficon ports. It does not support Escon. Pricing for the DS6000 begins at $97,000.IBM will continue to offer lower-end midrange systems it OEMs from Engenio Information Technologies Inc. as part of its DS4000 family, which replaces the FastT line. IBM is expected to refresh its family of systems from Engenio early next year. There has been talk throughout the industry that IBM would drop this family, but strong sales and support of SATA are expected to save Engenio.

Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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