IBM Enhances Spectrum Storage Management, Integration and Flexibility

IBM’s February 7, 2017 software-defined storage announcement was so chock full of new capabilities for the company’s Spectrum Storage and Cloud Object Storage, it’s tough to sum it up in one sentence or even a paragraph. But a look at the history of IBM Spectrum Storage will provide some context and illustrate IBM’s prime objectives: consistency, integration and flexibility.

The Spectrum Family of software- defined storage was first announced in February 2015 — a rebranding of existing IBM storage solutions with names more indicative of their functions. In early 2016, IBM announced the IBM Spectrum Storage Suite, a single capacity-based license that includes all the IBM Spectrum Storage offerings. Over time, the suite has become more of a “family”, with a consistent user experience across products by using IBM Storage Design Language (based on IBM design language) and improved integration between members of the product family.

For example, Spectrum Scale and Spectrum Accelerate are managed through Spectrum Control, and Spectrum Scale can be used as a target with Spectrum Protect – an example of integration between these two products. Another great example is the integration of IBM Cloud Object Storage (formerly Cleversafe –acquired in 2015) with IBM Spectrum Storage offerings (we’ll discuss this in greater detail later). IBM Cloud Object Storage is now a full-fledged member of the Spectrum Storage Suite with no change in the license charge.

In most cases, IBM Spectrum Storage solutions are available in flexible deployment models as software-only and as-a-service offerings delivered via a hybrid cloud model—including on-premises solutions, private and public cloud implementations. Data can be easily shared across on-premises and cloud deployment models—providing maximum flexibility for customers.

IBM Spectrum Storage Suite Announcements

IBM announced enhancements to IBM Spectrum Virtualize, IBM Spectrum Control/Storage Insights, IBM Spectrum Accelerate and IBM Cloud Object Storage. Here are the details.

IBM Spectrum Virtualize

The big news with IBM Spectrum Virtualize is that it is now available as software-only and can be deployed on x86 servers , providing more options for service providers who may also choose to offer Spectrum Control for management and Spectrum Protect for back-up. Bare metal support on Supermicro SuperServer 2028U-TRTP+ is being introduced (in addition to existing support for Lenovo System x3650 M5). As a result, service providers can offer new services to their customers (for example disaster recovery as a service for clients with IBM’s SVC and/or Storwize) while also adding new capabilities to their own infrastructure.

Other enhancements include I/O throttling for host clusters, GUI support for host groups, increased background FlashCopy transfer rates (4x improvement), automatic resizing of remote mirror volumes, and automatic consistency protection for metro/global mirror relationships.

IBM Spectrum Control and Storage Insights (SaaS version)

Perhaps one the most exciting enhancements to Storage Insights is support for Dell EMC storage (VNX, VNXe and VMAX) enabling cloud-based storage analytics for Dell EMC customers, providing better insight, flexibility and efficiency for customers with heterogeneous storage environments  For example, administrators can see at-a-glance which storage volumes need to re-tiered for cost-optimized storage, examine future capacity requirements and reallocate unused storage across both IBM and Dell EMC storage infrastructure. A new consolidated chargeback reporting tool provides better accounting for data owners and administrators and adds support for Dell EMC VNXe.

IBM Spectrum Accelerate

The latest revision of IBM Spectrum Accelerate (V11.5.4) provides the following:

  • Non –disruptive data-at-rest encryption – data security is improved by using SED drive-based encryption and can be done on –premise or in the cloud, Standard key management tools including IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager and SafeNet KeySecure are supported and the functionality is available at no additional charge.
  • Hyper-Scale Manager 5.1 enables centralized management across up to 144 systems on or off-premise running IBM Spectrum Accelerate (FlashSystem A900/A900R, XIV Gen 3, Spectrum Accelerate software-only).
  • VMware 6 support enables enhanced IBM Spectrum Accelerate solutions in hyperconverged configurations including VMware ESXi 6.0 and vCenter6.0. vSphere Web Client certification provides IBM native storage visibility. These features are delivered in IBM Spectrum Control Base Edition for centralized management across the entire IBM storage portfolio.

IBM Cloud Object Storage

As mentioned earlier, IBM Cloud Object Storage is now included in the IBM Spectrum Storage portfolio, having been integrated with:

  • IBM Spectrum Scale (for an additional storage tier behind IBM Spectrum Scale);
  • IBM Spectrum Protect ( to provide an electronic vault, initial target or storage in the cloud);
  • IBM Spectrum Control (to enable monitoring of IBM Cloud Object Storage); and
  • IBM Spectrum CDM (for data archiving in IBM Cloud Object Storage).

Supported environments include on-premise single and multi-site, hybrid cloud dedicated multi-site, and cloud-only running on dedicated supported cloud infrastructure. Existing clients get the new capabilities and can use them immediately.

Other new features include:

  • Unified NFS/Object access adds the ability to use the object store via an NFS file system interface. IBM will use its own NFS native file access capability for object storage to enable support for applications that communicate to storage using file system protocols in addition to those that speak natively to object storage – with all the scalability, security, reliability and capacity characteristics (hundreds of PBs and billions of files) of IBM Cloud Object Storage. Included is the ability to interoperate between the file system interface and the object storage RESTful API, a common storage pool for NFS and object data, and file to object migration. Customers can, for example, use the file system data to ingest the data set, but for processing that data for an analytics application they can access data via the object interface. IBM Object Cloud Storage NFS is ideal for large-scale file archives, long-term backup retention, and file accessible content repository applications.
  • Enhanced storage-as-a-service (STaaS) increases the maximum number of user accounts that can be supported on a single system. The system can scale to millions of users with their own accounts and isolated storage containers all on a single system. This system is designed to be used both for a commercial STaaS product that can be sold to other businesses but also for employees within an organization with use cases including medical archive-as-a-service, archive/back-up as-a-service, IT storage as-a-service and cloud storage as-a-service.
  • IPv6 is now supported for management of all devices and all nodes— nodes can be configured to support IPv4 or IPv6, so IBM Cloud Object storage can easily fit into a customer’s existing network architecture if they have adopted IPv6.
  • Preconfigured bundles of IBM Object Cloud Storage are now available in Entry, Workhorse and Enterprise classes. These bundles are turnkey, simple to order complete systems with a balanced, pre-tuned set of components for various levels of capacity and performance— designed to simplify a customer’s entry into object storage.

Summary Observations

Having followed IBM Storage for several years, the direction the company is taking with its storage portfolio is definitely making my job easier. Back in the old days, there were so many disparate hardware and software offerings handled by different siloed groups at IBM Storage, it was difficult to keep up with them all. And it was even tougher to figure out how all the products worked together. In some cases, I learned that it was tough to figure out because they didn’t.

Since the rebranding in early 2015, IBM has been making steady progress in integrating its storage portfolio at both the marketing and technical level. A consistent user experience makes the products feel like a family and makes storage administration easier and more efficient. Synergies between the products enable enterprise customers and service providers to offer new services. IBM’s software-defined Spectrum Storage strategy gives customers more flexibility, enabling Spectrum products to be purchased as software-only, as an integrated solution or as-a-service. In addition, IBM supports a wide range of underlying hardware platforms and a hybrid cloud storage model.

These latest enhancements to the portfolio continue to build on the themes of integration, flexibility, and consistent management— which ultimately improve efficiency and drive down storage costs, while at the same time enabling new use cases. I am particularly impressed by how quickly Cleversafe, now IBM Cloud Object storage, has been integrated with IBM Spectrum Storage and enhanced to support unified file and object access. IBM Spectrum Storage has something for everyone— and now it’s easier than ever to find the integrated software-defined storage solution that your organization needs.

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