IBM Upgrades Entry Enterprise Flash Storage

By Patrick Moorhead - February 25, 2021
IBM Storage

We’re now a decade into the all-flash era.  Business-critical and performance-sensitive applications across nearly every enterprise take advantage of the benefits of flash storage. The emergence of NVMe-attached flash has removed even more latency from the storage stack while also delivering higher throughput levels.  Storage is no longer the bottleneck that it once was.

While business-critical applications have come to rely on all-flash storage, entry-level workloads don't always enjoy these same capabilities. Basic economics has limited the options for what is achievable in an entry-level package. All-flash storage has been too expensive to service the entry-level storage market effectively. 

Times are changing. Economies of scale are taking hold in the flash memory market that is driving increasing and decreasing dollars-per-byte.  QLC NAND has emerged to deliver many of the benefits of flash storage to less-demanding applications. The high-performance processors required to provide storage capabilities at the speed of flash have also continued to fall. 

There’s no longer a need to under-serve the entry-level storage market. Indeed, storage vendors across the board have begun to deliver compelling solutions into this space.  But from a technology and full-portfolio perspective, there is almost no solution on the market as performant and scalable as the just-announced IBM FlashSystem 5200. 

IBM’s New FlashSystem 

IBM knows better than anyone how to build an all-flash storage system. The company delivers some of the highest-performing storage solutions on the market. Its mainframe-class DS8900F is one of the most performant storage systems ever built, while the IBM FlashSystem family is one of the most competitive all-flash solutions for non-mainframe enterprise workloads available today. 

Core to IBM’s ability to build storage systems of this caliber is its uniquely engineered FlashCore technology. FlashCore brings together the right mix of flash media and embedded intelligence to provide the optimal balance of performance, capacity, and reliability.  IBM's FlashCore technology, with its branded “Smart Data Placement” capabilities, allows IBM to intelligently integrate QLC NAND with other flash technologies, providing a level of multi-dimensional performance that is hard to match. 

IBM’s new FlashSystem 5200 targets both the entry enterprise storage market and space-constrained enterprise edge applications. It replaces IBM’s FlashSystem 5100, providing capabilities that have been previously unheard of in the entry-level storage market.  

IBM remains justifiably proud of its latency achievements. The latency numbers from IBM storage systems sit near the top of the storage industry.  The new FlashSystem 5200 has the same 70-microsecond minimum latency as its more powerful siblings in the FlashSystem family.  This extends IBM’s industry-beating latency and throughput capabilities into the entry enterprise storage space. 

The FlashSystem 5200 scales from 38TB up to 1.7PB in a 1U package, when using compression and deduplication.  It also can scale-out to a four-node cluster. The new system also promises dramatically increased performance gains over its predecessor.  The system delivers 1.5M IOPs per system, up 66%, while providing 21GB/s per system, increasing throughput by 40%.  While the new FlashSystem model's primary storage is IBM's FlashCore modules, the new array also supports industry-standard NVMe SSDs and Storage-Class Memory as primary storage media for those applications that require the extra level of performance.

The company has also upgraded its SAS-based FlashSystem line-up with the new FlashSystem 5015 and FlashSystem 5035.  Each of these systems delivers significant new performance capabilities over their predecessors. 

IBM Steps Up Its Public Cloud Offerings 

IBM is all about providing the right balance of solutions for the cloud-enabled enterprise.  In the storage world, IBM Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud provides a bridge between on-prem storage solutions and the public resources that nearly every enterprise consumes today. 

IBM Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud allows for data to be easily shared between on-prem and public cloud, or even between cloud data centers.  This enables flexible data management solutions that allow for flexible data migration, disaster recovery architectures that span on-prem and cloud boundaries, and increased cyber resiliency and cloud-based DevOps. 

IBM Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud will soon support Microsoft Azure.  This supplements its existing capabilities with its support for IBM Cloud and Amazon’s AWS, expanding IBM’s footprint across the top two public cloud service providers. 

Further expanding its cloud-focused offerings, IBM is launching storage support for IBM Cloud Satellite. IBM Cloud Satellite is IBM's cloud management solution. Cloud Satellite gives IT administrators the ability to deploy and manage applications across on-prem, edge, and public-cloud. Using IBM storage extends Cloud Satellite's capabilities with a comprehensive set of data management functionality and helps reduce the cost of deployments since existing storage can be employed. IBM FlashSystem, SAN Volume Controller, IBM Spectrum Scale, and IBM Elastic Storage Server will all be supported with IBM Cloud Satellite.

Wrapping Up 

IBM is famous for its jam-packed storage announcements, and this most recent set of announcements are no different. In addition to the announcements described previously, IBM has also expanded its HA capabilities.  IBM now provides GUI and Ansible support for HyperSwap and 3-site replication. The company also announced a new simplified support offering with its IBM Storage Expert Care. 

IBM continues to impress with the overall capabilities of its FlashSystem portfolio.  The secret sauce that IBM embeds in its IBM’s FlashCore modules makes a world of difference.  IBM has been the benchmark for high-performance storage since it invented the storage industry nearly sixty years ago. The new IBM FlashSystem 5200 continues in that tradition, providing capabilities into the entry-level enterprise market that will be hard for its competitors to beat. 

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.