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The Role of Storage in IBM’s New PureSystems

Paraphrasing Frank Sinatra’s famous "Love and Marriage" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn and music by Jimmy Van Heusen), we might sing: Systems and storage, systems and storage / Go together like a horse and carriage / This I tell ya, brother, you can't have one without the other. In this context, IBM’s new PureSystems strengthen an already strong bond between the company’s system "horse," which does the CPU pulling, and the storage "carriage," which carries the information payload.

Overview of IBM PureSystems
Our focus here is on how IBM storage works with IBM PureSystems. But first, for those of you who are unfamiliar with IBM PureSystems, a brief introduction is in order. For those of you familiar with the product family, a quick recall should be helpful. IBM recently introduced what it calls a new breed of solutions under a concept that it calls "expert integrated systems." IBM states that such systems combine the flexibility of a general-purpose system, the elasticity of cloud and the simplicity of an appliance. The twin goals are to fundamentally change the experience and economics of IT. By experience, IBM really means driving out the complexity associated with managing an information infrastructure, and by economics, the company is really talking about squeezing costs out without compromising service-related metrics.

Those goals are nothing new for the IT industry, and a lot of progress has been made over the years, but with all the changes in the IT world, including server virtualization and the cloud, the battle to eliminate complexity and reduce costs seems to be never-ending. IBM backed up its PureSystems talk with an investment of $2 billion in R&D and acquisitions over four years. The company is also leveraging a broad ecosystem with applications from about 125 ISVs that are certified as "PureSystem Ready."

IBM defines three pillars for expert integrated systems: built-in expertise, integration by design and simplified experience. Built-in expertise is about capturing and automating what experts do, from the infrastructure to the application. Integration by design is more deeply integrating and tuning hardware and software. Simplified experience yields are integrated management of the entire system.

The first two PureSystems product fruits are the IBM PureFlex System, which focuses on integrating and optimizing system infrastructures, and the IBM PureApplication System, which takes an application-aware approach to the system for what IBM expects to deliver rapid time-to-value.

And now on to the storage carriage.

How Storage Works with IBM PureSystems
Servers today are almost always discussed in the context of virtualization, as that is the way IT infrastructures are headed. Storage is also headed in this direction; in IBM’s case, it uses its storage hypervisor to virtualize storage. Now, if you have the opportunity, please see my earlier piece on IBM Pulse 2012: A New Storage Hypervisor. That piece describes how the IBM storage hypervisor virtualizes storage.

Two of the key benefits of using a storage hypervisor to virtualize storage are:

--Improve storage efficiency: Improving the storage provisioning process by not over-allocating storage up-front leads to higher (and therefore better) percentages of storage utilization; enabling different service levels for different data types (say, email and OLTP applications) improves the use of I/O resources (letting them do more before upgrading is needed) and also avoids making more copies than necessary for data protection purposes. All in all, managing physical storage resources better yields an economic cost benefit in better (dare we say optimal) use of storage assets; that ties in nicely to the change of IT economics goal of IBM PureSystems.

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