IBM’s Big Month Of Storage Announcements

By Patrick Moorhead - November 22, 2022
IBM StorageIBM

IBM storage is part of the data fabric across nearly every Fortune 1000 enterprise. That's something you might need to learn, as the success of IBM storage often goes unfairly unnoticed. This lack of notice is due to everything from IBM telling a solution-focused story, where physical infrastructure is just a means to an end, to analysts segregating storage hardware from the software that genuinely powers everything. For IBM, the software is the secret sauce.

Occasionally, during an earnings call or a briefing for an upcoming announcement, you get an inside glimpse of IBM's storage success. For example, in its most recent quarterly earnings call CEO Arvind Krishna highlighted the “broad-based strength” of IBM’s storage business. Storage significantly contributed to the 21% increase IBM saw in its distributed infrastructure business. While IBM’s storage revenue tends to surge during a Z-systems upgrade cycle (as this past quarter was), I’ve been told by IBM insiders that its current growth is far broader than what’s generated by mainframe upgrades.

A key element of IBM’s success in storage is its continuous cycle of innovation. This is a team that has always aggressively managed its storage portfolio. IBM Storage updates its offerings consistently, usually multiple times each year. IBM's updates are rarely cosmetic or incremental. Instead, IBM's storage offerings tend to meet the most current challenges facing enterprise IT, from multi-cloud to cyber-resilience to even tape backup.

IBM announced more than just updates to its storage offerings over this past month; it also announced a major organizational shift. IBM announced that it's moving and integrating the Red Hat OpenShift Data Services team into the IBM Storage team. So a lot is happening over at Big Blue. Let’s delve into what’s been announced across three distinct sets of announcements.

Moving Red Hat OpenShift Data Services to IBM

Since it acquired Red Hat in 2019, IBM has been very deliberate in operating it independently. This makes sense for how IBM approaches its markets, but it's also caused some internal frustration. There's a lot of intellectual property within both Red Hat and IBM that could each could leverage to improve its offerings. The frustration must be easing because IBM is crossing its boundary and bringing Red Hat's most potent storage technology into IBM.

IBM is moving ownership of Red Hat OpenShift Data Foundation (ODF) and Red Hat Ceph Storage into the IBM Storage business. Red Hat employees who work on these offerings will also move into IBM proper. IBM will also take ownership of the go-to-market motions for Red Hat Ceph Storage.

There’s a natural fear that comes with a move like this. Red Hat’s entire mission is focused on promoting and maintaining open source. Will IBM continue to honor that tradition with Ceph and ODF stacks? IBM will. IBM has a long history of positive involvement in the open-source community, dating to the earliest days of Linux in the 1990s. IBM has also publicly committed that 100% of ODF and Ceph remain open source. I believe them.

IBM will integrate ODF into IBM Spectrum Fusion, with a product release sometime during the first half of 2023. IBM will also rebrand Red Hat Ceph as IBM Ceph and take stewardship of the open-source project. Red Hat will continue to offer ODF as part of its broader OpenShift offerings.

Moving ODF and Ceph into IBM’s storage product team makes good business sense, if for no other reason than the acceleration of IBM's roadmap for cloud-native storage. Executing this roadmap will allow IBM to integrate IBM storage into hybrid-cloud environments better and will put a finer edge on IBM's container-focused data solutions. In addition, the technical strength of ODF should allow IBM to deliver an extremely compelling option.

Cyber-Resilience for IBM Storage 

Cloud-native may get all the press, but cyber-resilience remains at the top of every IT administrator's list of concerns. Again, this is an area where IBM has been consistently strong. The strength continues as IBM announces the expansion of cyber-resiliency features across the IBM Storage portfolio, IBM Spectrum Protect, and for specific SAP HANA and Salesforce workloads.

IBM Spectrum Scale is getting support for Safeguarded Copy immutable snapshots in its v5.1.5 release, enabling up to 256 immutable point-in-time copies of production data with policy-based control. Immutable snapshots offer a logical air gap, protecting data against any modification. In addition, IBM's Safeguarded Copy technology allows fine-grained access control, allowing different management roles to be assigned across an IT organization.

IBM Spectrum Fusion v2.3 brings multiple new features. The latest release includes improved disaster recovery capabilities with support for metro synchronous replication, new backup workflow orchestration recipes, hardware validation for up to 64-core compute nodes, configurable recovery groups, and updated licensing capabilities. These are just part of the list. There's plenty more, which you can find on IBM's website.

IBM Spectrum Protect and Spectrum Protect Plus also received important updates to its cyber-resilience capabilities. IBM Spectrum Protect v.8.1.16 brings enhanced cyber-resilience in Cloud Object Storage with the addition of immutable object storage for Spectrum Protect backup data, user-defined complex password requirements for strengthened security, plus multiple enhancements to the Spectrum Protect Server backup repository.

SAP HANA, the software platform underpinning many of the world's most business-critical workloads, receives special attention. For example, IBM Spectrum Sentinal, which performs ransomware anomaly analysis of immutable Safeguarded Copy snapshots, is now available for SAP HANA. This capability uses IBM Spectrum Copy Data Management to create and manage multiple immutable Safeguarded Copy backups and, using machine learning, detect signs of possible corruption. IBM Spectrum Sentinel for SAP HANA also provides automated recovery orchestration to accelerate data restoration from verified and validated backups. This is precisely the data protection you want for your business-critical workloads.

SAP HANA is one of many business-critical in the enterprise. IBM announced its Spectrum Protect Plus Online Services for Salesforce, which enables enterprises to back up and restore cloud-based Salesforce workloads easily. The new offering stores the backups in any public or private cloud, giving IT administrators significant flexibility.

IBM Diamondback Tape Library

We don't often think of tape, but it underpins nearly every long-term archival solution. Tape is behind most public cloud companies' deep archive offerings. Tape provides the most efficient and secure way of storing low-access data for extended periods. It's also an excellent story for organizations that are working to increase sustainability efforts. Tape, for example, has a 97% lower carbon footprint than a spinning disk.

IBM is the world's leader in tape-based archival solutions, holding nearly twice the market share of its next-closest competitor. IBM doesn't break out the earnings of its tape business, but the worldwide tape market is estimated to be worth up to $5B annually. It's also growing at an estimated 5-10% year-on-year. That's not bad for a technology invented in 1952.

IBM recently announced its latest tape offering, the IBM Diamondback Tape Library. Diamondback is an ultra-high-density library and drive frame which can store up to 27PB in a single OCP-sized rack. In addition, up to 17 frames can be combined to protect up to 417PB of data.

While the IBM Diamondback provides an excellent solution for enterprises with hundreds (or more) petabytes of data to protect, it was clearly built with hyperscalers in mind. IBM told us that the new library was developed in collaboration with the hyperscaler community. Not just the big five but also what IBM calls the 100 "next wave" hyperscalers. This collaboration yielded a solution focused on both cyber-security and ease of installation and maintenance – two areas where IT shops of every size want to focus.

The Analyst’s Take

IBM Storage is not an organization that takes its charter lightly. Data is the basis for digital transformation. Protecting that data is job one. Storing and protecting data is the enabler for everything that IBM offers.

While IBM builds some of the best storage hardware in the industry, it's IBM's lineup of Spectrum software offerings that tie everything together. October's announcements strengthened that by expanding its cyber-resilience capabilities across the entire IBM Spectrum portfolio.

The announcements also revealed an organizational shift that will enable new multi-cloud and cloud-native capabilities in an upcoming IBM Spectrum Fusion release. I'm looking forward to seeing how the capabilities enabled by the OpenShift Data Foundation software will impact that product. It's been a good year for IBM Storage, and they're not slowing down.

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.