Storwize V7000 IBM's Brand New Midrange Storage Array

IBM recently held a fall storage event for press and analysts at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Although a number of updates were discussed, the focus of the event was around the two biggest announcements: the introduction of a new midrange storage product, the IBM Storwize V7000, and the latest model in IBM's enterprise-class disk storage systems, the DS8800. This blog will cover the Storwize V7000.

David Hill

October 20, 2010

4 Min Read
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IBM recently held a fall storage event for press and analysts at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Although a number of updates were discussed, the focus of the event was around the two biggest announcements: the introduction of a new midrange storage product, the IBM Storwize V7000, and the latest model in IBM's enterprise-class disk storage systems, the DS8800. This blog will cover the Storwize V7000.

The first thing to note about the Storwize V7000 is that this product has nothing to do with the data compression products of Storwize which IBM acquired in August. Instead, IBM has repurposed the company's name (implying "wise"storage) to apply to its new line of midrange storage systems of which the StorwizeV7000 is the first model. Former Storwize products have been relabeled as Real-time Compression Appliances STN6500 and STN6800.
 
The second thing to note is Storwize is a completely new midrange storage system product for IBM. The company's IBM System Storage DS5000 product family has been very successful and IBM plans to continue on selling it. However, the Storwize V7000 does not share the same architectural heritage as the DS5000. For example, a lot of the intellectual property in the DS5000 was the work of LSI whereas the intellectual property in the Storwize V7000 strongly reflects IBM's own research and development.

The two product lines may overlap somewhat in some customer's eyes, which is good as it forces them to learn what the inherent differences are and then choose the product that best fits their needs. However, the DS5000 seems more about meeting the needs of customers who have fairly basic storage requirements whereas the Storwize V7000 is aimed at providing enterprise-class capabilities for midrange customers. In the vernacular, the Storwize V7000 aims to provide champagne tastes for customers who have a beer budget.

In some sense, all disk storage systems look alike when viewed from the outside or even more closely, such as in the design of bays where disk drives are inserted. Still, physical similarities tend to obscure the fact that storage arrays tend to be highly complex solutions that require sophisticated capabilities such as storage management, including provisioning and data management, such as moving data for disaster recovery and data protection.

In products like the new Storwize V7000, scalability is the key hardware attribute. Most midrange systems are modular, in that a customer can start small and add capacity by adding expansion enclosures. With the Storwize V7000 up to nine expansion enclosures can be attached to a single control enclosure, supporting up to 240 TB of raw capacity. But the Storwize V7000 allows clients to mix enclosures with 2.5" and 3.5" HDD and SSD drives of various capacities in order to provide maximum flexibility.Although hardware differences among competing arrays are important, the key differences between many storage systems tend to have to do with software. For example, in contrast with some other products, with the Storwize V7000 storage virtualization is a built-in feature, not added on. That in conjunction with thin provisioning, a form of virtualization, leads to easier administration and improved utilization of disk storage.

Note that the Storwize V7000 relies on virtualization technology from its flagship SAN Volume Controller (SVC). The Storwize V7000 also offers Easy Tier which enables the use of solid state drives to cost effectively improve performance of data-intensive tasks and applications. In addition, advanced software, including mirroring and snapshot capabilities for high availability and disaster recovery protection, are pre-installed on the Storwize V7000 and ready to use.

Moreover, with the exception of global mirroring, these advanced V7000 features are "freely" included in the base system and price, which is not necessarily true for many competitors' products. This is good for two reasons. First, it helps make the product's total cost of ownership (TCO) more attractive. Secondly, customers can gain the use of advanced features without having to make separate purchase decisions and maybe having to forgo the use of functionality that they may not need when they purchases the storage array but could make use of in the future.

Just one more point to illustrate the details that went into the design of the Storwize V7000. One claim that virtually all storage vendors make is for better manageability or ease of use and a key element of manageability is the user interface. Although a graphical user interface (GUI) is generally preferable to a command line interface (CLI) (except for certain hardcore technical gurus), true ease of use depends on the functionality available in the GUI. To that point, the degree of navigational difficulty to take advantage of that functionality varies greatly from vendor to vendor. The Storwize V7000 has adopted IBM's XIV GUI, which is a very good decision given the enthusiasm of XIV customers for its features.

All in all, while terms like scalability, efficiency, and manageability seem to be used by all vendors, digging in deeply can help one understand their importance in IBM's design of the Storwize V7000. Disclaimer: IBM is currently a client of David Hill and the Mesabi Group.
 

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