IBM Focuses On Container Data In Latest Announcements

IBM announced it is bringing its Spectrum Storage data management features to container-based workloads.

Containers have quickly emerged as one of the dominant architectures for application development and deployment. It’s a technology that eases many of the burdens facing IT administrators, as they seek to deliver business-critical applications while maintaining a high degree of IT agility. Containers provide efficient and flexible cloud-native workflows throughout the enterprise. 

It’s no wonder that the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s KubeCon + CloudNativeCon has become the premier event for container and cloud-native technologies over just a few short years. The 2019 event hosted more than twelve thousand attendees, nearly 50% larger than the previous year. This year’s virtual event promises to be even bigger. 

Containers already solve many issues for IT administrators, but the technology continues to evolve. The management of persistent data for container-based workloads is an excellent example of an area where growth continues. There’s a baseline of support for storage in the Kubernetes and OpenShift worlds, but these capabilities don’t yet rise to the level of the flexible and highly resilient storage architectures available to more traditionally deployed workloads. 

IBM announced a broad range of new capabilities at its recent IBM Tech U event. Nicely timed just ahead of next week’s KubeCon, IBM’s announcements address the capability gap that container management systems face. Now, IBM is bringing the powerful data management features of its Spectrum Storage offering to the world of container-based workloads. It’s a great set of capabilities. 

IBM’s Deep Container Integration

There is a lot to unpack in IBM’s announcement of more robust container support. I’ll hit the highlights here, but the interested reader should consult the IBM storage websiteto get the details directly from IBM.

One of the most challenging elements of providing storage to a container deployment is delivering the right mix of cyber-resiliency. The next version of IBM Spectrum Protect Plus will take the enterprise-class data protection capabilities that the product is famous for, and make those features available to IBM Red Hat OpenShift environments. This promises to enable a robust level of disaster recovery and data protection for cloud-native environments.

While data protection and robust cyber-resilience are critical for any enterprise workload, data management and discovery come to the forefront as organizations deploy workloads into cloud-native environments. This is equally true as data-rich workloads span multi-vendor and multi-cloud storage infrastructure. 

IBM is addressing all of these needs with new enhancements to IBM Spectrum Discover.  Spectrum Discover is one of the most compelling data management tools available for managing unstructured data. IBM is now upgrading the tool to support Red Hat OpenShift Container Storage. 

IBM is also updating Spectrum Scale, giving it a containerized client and run-time operators for OpenShift. IBM’s Spectrum Scale Cloud Packs essentially containerize more than 100 IBM software products and them to OpenShift. IBM Cloud Object Storage also adds container-friendly features, enabling support for the open-source S3fs file-to-object interface IBM bundles with Red Hat OpenShift.

A lot is happening with IBM as it works to deliver its long-proven enterprise storage and data management capabilities into the rapidly growing cloud-native ecosystem.

IBM FlashSystem updates 

IBM’s storage division is famous for its densely packed product announcements. The most recent announcements are no exception. Beyond the new functionality for containers, there are a solid set of upgrades to IBM’s existing FlashSystem storage line. 

The updates include new Red Hat Ansible capabilities to manage snapshots, volume clones, replication and consistency groups. These updates bring higher levels of automation capabilities to IBM FlashSystem deployments. 

IBM is also increasing the amount of storage class memory that can be served as primary storage. The IBM FlashSystem 9200 is increasing the number of SCM drives from four to twelve. IBM is an equal opportunity provider of SCM, supporting both Intel Optane SSDs and Samsung Z-SSD SCM drives.

Beyond these enhancements, IBM announced optimizations to how the IBM FlashSystem implements snapshots. The new redirect-on-write scheme cut the number of disk accesses by nearly half. This reduces the time-to-snapshot and helps manage wear on the underlying SSD, increasing longevity.

Resiliency is also on the menu, with enhanced, three-site, high-availability capabilities leveraging HyperSwap and IBM’s existing disaster recovery features. Three-site recovery support continues, with IBM’s SAN Volume Controller picking up the combined HyperSwap and disaster recovery features. 

IBM delivers a robust set of new capabilities to its FlashSystem line with this set of announcements. It’s a substantial boost to cyber-resiliency, performance and reliability. 

Poised for the future 

Enterprise storage architecture is evolving alongside containers and container management solutions. Many persistent storage needs can be met with CSI driver support, while others require the kind of deep integration that IBM put into its updated Spectrum Storage software offerings. 

Long-term, I expect that native data-plane capabilities will emerge to tightly integrate container workloads’ unique needs to its underlying storage. IBM has announced its intentions to take that leap over the next few quarters.  

Every storage vendor is angling its solution to the problem. Pure Storage recently acquired Portworx, for example, to better service this space. NetApp made its own slew of container-focused announcements at its recent NetApp Insight event. Dell Technologies leverages the power of VMware to address container storage. There’s a lot happening in the industry.

For nearly sixty years, one thing has held true: whenever there is a fundamental transformation in information technology, IBM is usually right in the middle of it, lighting the way. This continues with IBM’s new capabilities for serving storage in a containerized world. There is powerful potential here. I like what IBM is delivering.