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IBM's Storwize V7000 Is A Disk Array And A Storage Virtualization Platform

It's been a busy fall in the storage market with HDS announcing their new VSP and IBM announcing new versions of their high-end DS8800 array and Storage Volume Controller (SVC), along with a new mid-range array the Storewize V7000.  While IBM slapped the Storewize moniker on the V7000, the company didn't include Storewize's real-time compression technology in the array.  Frankly, I think that's going to confuse some folks.

The V7000 is a dual controller midrange array. It uses Intel's Jasper Forest processors, which primarily run the software from IBM's SVC. Like HDS' VSP, the V7000 can manage external disk arrays as well as its own storage. That "owned" storage is provided exclusively by 2.5-inch, small-form-factor drives, including 15K RPM, 300GB Flash SSD and 7200RPM drives. Smaller drives let you integrate more spindles in the same space, speeding data access by having more positioners per TB. (HDS's VSP also uses small form factor drives). I expect smaller drives to replace the now standard 3.5" drives for primary storage systems as vendors refresh their systems, which will leave large-form-factor drives to secondary storage applications where the ratio of Tbytes to rack unit is more important than performance.

The integration of SVC technology into the V7000 means a storage admin can use the V7000's virtualization engine to migrate data from an existing array by connecting the V7000 to  the existing LUN, reconnecting the server(s) accessing the LUN to use the V7000 and then using the virtualization engine to migrate the data while the server(s) are accessing it. The upshot? A few minutes of downtime instead of a long night or weekend moving data with the server offline.

The V7000 includes the now-standard set of midrange features including thin provisioning, snapshots and replication. For users with SSDs, the Easy Tier automated tiering will automatically move their hot data to SSD. While I haven't gotten Easy Tier into the lab I was impressed by the graphics IBM used that showed it taking four hours to learn about data access patterns and then speeding up applications immediately thereafter. Other tiering technologies only move data overnight; Easy Tier's real time motion is more cache like. Even better, IBM isn't nickel-and-diming their customers to death--these features are included in the base price.

With that said, I didn't hear IBM mention a few features that I consider important for the kind of mid-market users the V7000 aims at. Equallogic's early success proved that ease of use is important when you're selling SANs to organizations that don't have a deep bench of steely-eyed storage guys. The V7000 has a nice Web interface, but today that isn't enough. In addition, most V7000s are going to be front ending VMware and Windows servers, some of which may even be running Hyper-V. An array targeted to this market should tightly integrate into these environments with Microsoft simple SAN VDS (virtual disk service) integration and VMware SRM (Site Recovery Manager) and vCenter plug-ins so admins can manage LUNs from the same console they use to manage their servers. I didn't see these capabilities in the announcement.  Overall however, the V7000 seems like a good step in the right direction for IBM. If they add real-time compression it will deserve the Storewize name.