Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, January 29, 2022

Trio of New Systems Expands IBM All-Flash Storage Portfolio for Hyperscale and Cloud 

Calling it the foundation of its cloud and cognitive computing strategy, IBM has significantly expanded its all-flash storage platform portfolio with the announcement today of three new array products aimed at managing massive amounts of data associated with cloud-based, high-performance workloads. Targeting hyperscale, cloud data centers and cloud service providers (CSP), the systems utilize IBM’s FlashSystem self-optimizing technology, boasting minimum latency of 250μs (microseconds).

The all-flash array systems include:

IBM FlashSystem A9000: All-flash storage arrays with a highly parallel grid architecture that IBM said reduces the complexity of adding storage to cloud or data analytics applications. As new storage is added, the array self-tunes the new configuration. It also includes a hyper-scale manager for management of more than 100 units from a single user interface along with a hyperscale mobility feature for migration of data between arrays. The FlashSystem A9000 is priced starting at $1.50 per gigabyte.

IBM FlashSystem A9000R: An integrated rack system that scales up to the petabyte-plus range and enables CSPs and larger enterprises to deliver cloud services with native quality of service and secure multi-tenancy, according to IBM. It offers the capabilities of FlashSystem A9000 in a rack configuration.

IBM DS8888: An all-flash, mainframe-optimized data system for large enterprises using IBM's enterprise-class servers, z Systems and Power Systems

“With the FlashSystem A9000 and FlashSystem A9000R, IBM has really set a new level of expectations for customers with performance and scale in a building block for cloud solutions,” said Randy Kerns, senior strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst company. “The importance of a mature solution cannot be underestimated. Customers now have a product that has the acceleration for applications using flash technology with a foundation of field-proven deployments. FlashSystem A9000 and FlashSystem A9000R are major steps forward for IBM in providing cloud storage solutions.”

IBM's Eric Herzog

IBM's Eric Herzog

The new systems are based on flash technology developed by Texas Memory Systems, which IBM acquired in 2012. For IBM, “all -flash means we don’t use traditional SSDs off the shelf, we use raw flash and create our own flash modules, our own flash core technology,” Eric Herzog, vice president of marketing for IBM storage systems, told EnterpriseTech. He said this gives IBM “unmatched” IOPS (up to 2 million) and latency performance, high durability (the new systems come with a seven-year guarantee on flash media), and high density, enabling more flash per rack for savings on power consumption and cooling.

Herzog said flash’s superior performance and moderating pricing have made it the fastest growing part of the storage market. “Flash is doing to hard drive arrays what hard drive arrays did to tape, and going back further, what tape did to punch cards,” he said. “You start as a niche and then it spreads. Probably in another 10 years there’ll be another storage media that replaces flash.”

He said the all-flash arrays are “cognitive in design and operation,” and include intelligent storage automation that enables data to move from flash to other storage media within an array, to another IBM array, to more than 300 non-IBM arrays or from a non-IBM array to a different non-IBM array. Moving data from tier-to-tier either within an array or to another array occurs by the storage system evaluating and learning data access usage patterns. Automated distribution of data helps to avoid “hot spots” (an area that has high activity and long wait times to transfer data) making information available for cognition when needed.

He said the products include cloud-centric features that prevent "noisy neighbor" impact on application performance, along with thresholding and grid scale out.

IBM cited the Arizona State Land Department as an early adopter of adopting IBM Flash Storage.

"The workloads our department manages include CAD files for land mapping, geographic information system applications and satellite imagery for the over 9.2 million acres of State Trust lands we’re responsible to oversee,” said William Reed, CTO. “The data we manage is tied directly to our goal to make this information available and to increase its analytical capabilities.” He said client productivity has increased by 7x while reducing virtual machine boot times by more than 85 percent.

Another customer is the American Postal Workers Union Health Plan, which “”continues to experience tremendous amounts of data growth within our medical claims department,” according to Rich Myers, Senior Network Director. “We need a storage solution that easily scales, simplifies management and reporting and lowers our costs per terabyte. IBM FlashSystem solves all these problems, and at the same time increases the speed of our batch processing by 7 to 8 times from our previous solution, removing all latency from the system.”

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