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Big Blue Rolls-Out Features For Systems Storage

During the weeks of April 12th and 19th, IBM announced the release of new features and functions for the IBM System Storage DS8700 and XIV, along with other enhancements and new products in their overall storage line up.  Details of the whole announcement and a video with Doug Balog, IBM Storage Platform VP and Disk Storage Business Line Executive, can be located by clicking here.

In my opinion, from a disk-storage perspective, the most exciting piece of the April storage announcements is the release of IBM Easy Tier for the DS8700.  Easy Tier is a sub-LUN/volume data management and movement methodology that competes head-to-head with offerings from Compellent, 3Par and EMC, who has made public statements that their sub-LUN offering (FAST2) will be available in the Fall of this year.

So, you may ask, "What's the big deal with sub-LUN data management and movement capability?  And you may say, "Hey, you wrote about this a few weeks ago when 3Par released their Adaptive Optimization functionality."  Well, yes, I did write about 3Par and their release and that I felt it as being the first-to-market with sub-LUN data management in the enterprise storage space. With IBM's release of Easy Tier, they take the second place spot and third overall, behind Compellent and 3Par with sub-LUN data management capabilities now built in to the operational software of arrays. I anticipate both IBM and 3Par having their respective sub-LUN offerings operating within production data centers before the beginning of June, 2010.

sublun.pngThe big deal with sub-LUN data optimization is that smaller, more discrete quantities of data - rather than a whole volume or LUN - can be monitored, identified and moved based on the access characteristics of the specific data quantities. Each vendor has a name for their functionality and a naming convention for the data quantities that it monitors and then automatically moves to higher performing (or lower performing) storage.  The recently announced IBM  Easy Tier identifies their quantities of data under access measurement as "Extents."  

The even bigger deal here is the business impact of real-time data management.  Once data is free to be accessed in a faster manner by a host/applications, say from a Solid State Disk (SSD), the host/applications can run faster, and if the application is a revenue-generating one, then it stands to reason that more revenue can be generated in a period of time with faster disk I/O operations. Lets not forget that while SSDs may still be a pricey disk solution, their use in combination with spinning disk can dramatically improve the overall energy consumption characteristics of a storage array, saving you money on electricity usage and air conditioning.

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