IBM announces new high-end storage array

It now includes full disk encryption, solid-state disks in its highest-end array

For the first time in three years, IBM has unveiled a new high-end model in its DS8000 series enterprise-class disk storage arrays.

Based on IBM's latest Power6 processor, the new DS8700 model announced today offers up to 2.5 times the performance of IBM's current DS8300 array and is up to 50% more energy efficient, the company said in a statement.

The DS8700, which starts at $290,000, also allows users to configure the array with hard drives that have native full disk encryption for data security while the drives are in the box or after they have been removed at end of life.

Earlier this year, IBM announced the use of solid-state disks (SSD) in its storage and server lineup, including the DS8000 series. The new DS8700 expands on the use of SSD technology by incorporating smart data placement software in the array. Announced in May, smart data software identifies highly accessed data and places it on higher-performance drives within a single frame. In the DS8700, the software automatically migrates data to and from Fibre Channel and SSD drives, optimizing data placement in a tiered array.

"By moving only 10% of the hottest data from Fibre Channel drives to solid-state drives, clients can see approximately a 300% performance gain for high-transaction workloads," an IBM spokesman said.

Benjamin Woo, an analyst at market research firm IDC, said the addition of SSDs and performance-monitoring software is also critical as data centers become more virtualized. "As we do more virtualization ... performance becomes a function of concentrated [I/Os per second]. So the availability of SSDs becomes very critical to that performance."

Mark Peters, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., said that IBM's upgrades to its high-end array are significant for existing customers.

For example, companies such as Compellent Technologies Inc. already provide the ability to move data at a subvolume level between disk storage tiers in an array. But "this is all new to you if you're an IBM customer," Peters said. "So, on balance, this is more than a step and less than a leap forward. It's a solid stride forward for IBM."

The System Storage DS8700 also allows current DS8000 series owners to nondisruptively upgrade from base models to the most advanced models.

IBM said the DS8700 is backward-compatible, allowing prior generations of DS series arrays to interoperate with it. The DS8700 offers full interoperability with the prior model's hard drives, drive enclosures, tools, scripts and copy services.

Woo said he considers the boost in overall performance from the Power6 processor to be the most significant upgrade to the DS8700. Also, the array's ability to flash-copy data and replicate it to other, lower-end IBM storage systems is significant because it allows administrators to perform testing and development on the DS8700 and then flash-copy that data for analysis on less costly, lower-end arrays.

"That's one of the single most advantageous elements of this announcement," Woo said. "Also, given the fact that this system is used in high-transaction environments with sensitive information ... I think the use of full disk encryption by IBM was a smart move."

IBM today also is announcing enhancements to its N series network-attached storage array line, including its new Performance Accelerator Module (PAM II) SSD cards. The enhanced cards are 16 and 32 times larger than before and offer increased cache memory to improve response time by 30% across all N series systems. The new cards also help reduce power consumption by up to 50% compared with traditional hard disk drives.

IBM is also introducing new IBM System Storage EXN3000 expansion disks (serial-attached SCSI) for the N series arrays that offer high capability and resiliency and 22% better rack space efficiency. An essential technology to this launch is the new N series SnapManager for Microsoft Hyper-V, which provides users with a virtualization management tool to enable automated data protection and disaster recovery for Microsoft Hyper-V environments.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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