IBM Storage “Rebrands”, But Only Partially

IBM Storage “Rebrands”, But Only Partially

Chris Evans Storage Leave a Comment

In what I can only describe as a “remarkable” announcement, IBM has taken a number of their lacklustre storage products and rebranded them, using the new name of IBM Spectrum Storage.  The title of the press release implies some new software has been developed but the majority of the new spectrum platforms simply appear to be renamed existing products.  The new offerings include:

  • Spectrum Control – IBM Storage Insights and other existing data management solutions.
  • Spectrum Protect – Tivoli Storage Manager & other products.
  • Spectrum Archive – LTFS and tape.
  • Spectrum Virtualize – SAN Volume Controller (SVC).
  • Spectrum Scale – GPFS (was branded Elastic Storage).
  • Spectrum Accelerate – XIV – potentially in software form.

The announcement talks about IBMs leadership in software defined storage yet references products such as SVC, which is only available as a hardware appliance.  Then there are the products that don’t appear to be included here; these include FlashSystem (TMS acquisition), DS8000 series (mainframe and legacy enterprise storage) and Storewize (mid-range storage solution).  So there’s no clear hardware/software split as to what the IBM Spectrum brand is meant to represent.

Legacy Storage Solutions

IBM’s storage portfolio is in dire need of some upgrade and renewal.  DS8000 is antiquated and probably only survives due to the bundling of the product with mainframe sales.  The platform has been uncompetitive for many years, being outdone by the competition on scalability, environmental efficiency and features.  SVC (SAN Volume Controller) is well engineered but lacks the modern day refinements needed for today’s enterprise.  A case in point is the (lack of) availability of fine-grained RBAC (Role-based Access Controls) or the ability to manage via API.  I recently reviewed SVC for a managed service project and was disappointed with the inability to easily integrate the product into a management framework.

XIV seems to continue to survive but the platform isn’t really suited to multi-tenant environments.  New features like QoS have odd quirks, such as limits being based on multiples of the number of physical interfaces and being based on host rather than volume characteristics.

Overall it seems a weakly executed rebranding exercise with no real core message or indication as to how these somewhat disparate products are all suddenly going to start working together in some cohesive way.

Pity EMC?

What’s laughable is the way the press have completely misunderstood what IBM’s announcement actually means.  Take this one for example from Business Insider that implies IBM’s rebranding and magically budgeted $1bn will somehow get EMC quaking in their shoes.  The comparison is made to ViPR (which isn’t really software defined, although is a rebranded set of disparate products) and Nutanix, a startup looking to actively remove dedicated storage from the data centre.  I’m sure neither EMC nor Nutanix will be having any sleepless nights.

The Architect’s View

With the demise of IBM’s server business, the company really needs to think about what their storage division stands for.  Is there really margin in it for IBM?  Does it still have a purpose?

Nobody is going to be fooled by rebranding, especially when the website descriptions of new products say things like:

“The functionality of IBM Spectrum Virtualize is provided by IBM SAN Volume Controller.”

This shows no attempt to develop any kind of synergy or high level strategy that can be easily explained to customers.  IBM needs to provide a vision as to why bringing these seemingly disparate products together under a single brand will deliver customers more value than when they were separate entities.  Without this, IBM’s storage business will continue wither and die on the vine.

One last thought – within the next 24 hours we’re going to see announcements from the FlashSystem team on new products (although I don’t have the details yet, but some people do).  Let’s see how much of this will be branded IBM Spectrum and where the joined up thinking is (or isn’t).

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