IBM Spectrum Storage: A Synergistic Software Defined Storage Family

By Jane Clabby, Clabby Analytics

On November 4, IBM announced a set of enhancements to its IBM Spectrum Storage Family, specifically to IBM Spectrum Virtualize, IBM Spectrum Scale/IBM Elastic Storage Server, and IBM Spectrum Control. These enhancements focus on extending data security, improving storage economics, and reducing management complexity.

The Spectrum Family of software defined storage was first announced in February 2015 — a rebranding of existing storage solutions with new names more indicative of product function. The rebranding also put forth the notion of a “family”, rather than marketing the products based on their individual capabilities and product evolution. This announcement takes the concept a step further with common GUIs and consistent management across products, as well as more tightly integrated functionality. In addition, IBM also previewed the IBM Spectrum Storage Suite, a single capacity-based license that will include all the IBM Spectrum Storage offerings, and “Big Storage”, a cloud-based storage service tier.

IBM Software Defined Storage – The IBM Spectrum Family

The IBM Spectrum Family is a set of software defined solutions that are designed to work seamlessly together to manage heterogeneous file, object and block storage through software. The product suite features unified analytics-based management for local and remote storage— in the data center or in the cloud. Data optimization and placement helps protect existing investments in storage and minimize cost while improving efficiency.

The IBM Spectrum Family is comprised of:

  • IBM Spectrum Control (based on IBM Virtual Storage Center) provides storage and data optimization to reduce storage costs by up to 73 percent (source: IBM);
  • IBM Spectrum Protect (based on Tivoli Storage Manager ) provides optimized data protection to reduce backup costs by up to 53 percent (source: IBM);
  • IBM Spectrum Archive (based on LTFS) provides data retention that reduces TCO for active archive data by up to 90% (source: IBM);
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize (based on San Volume Controller) provides virtualization of mixed environments storing up to 5x more data (source: IBM);
  • IBM Spectrum Accelerate (based on XIV software) provides enterprise storage for cloud deployed in minutes instead of months (source: IBM); and
  • IBM Spectrum Scale (based on GPFS) provides high-performance, highly scalable unified storage for file and object needs (source: IBM).

Let’s look at the November enhancements in greater detail.

IBM Spectrum Virtualize Version 7.6


  • Better value: (1) 3x performance with only 5% flash (2) up to 63% lower personnel costs and (3) up to 100% better storage utilization;
  • Encryption for external storage supports over 300 different types of storage and provides a single point of control for encrypting data without requiring users to purchase new storage for encryption capabilities, improving both operating expenses (OpEx) and capital expenses (CapEx);
  • Data protection when drives are removed and secure erasure of storage with minimal impact on performance (uses Intel AES-NT processor);
  • New distributed RAID functionality improves rebuild time by 5-10% and improves performance by enabling all drives to be active (rather than requiring dedicated spares – especially costly in flash configurations);
  • Integrated Comprestimator allows potential buyers to see compression benefits before buying;
  • vVol support provided regardless of whether the storage supports it natively; and
  • Better support for high-availability (HA) configurations with new UI for HyperSwap and support for IP Quorum which eliminates requirement for fibre channel networking and storage at third site.

IBM Spectrum Scale 4.2, IBM Elastic Storage Server 3.5

IBM Spectrum Scale (available as software only, a cloud service or an appliance) is designed for particularly for four specific markets: (1) Big Data Analytics including native Hadoop and archive and analyze in place (2) Unified repository for file and object storage (3) Private cloud integrated with Open Stack and (4) Compute Clusters for scalable performance and throughput.


  • New GUI modeled after IBM Spectrum Family for easy adoption;
  • Integration with Spectrum Control : Spectrum Scale can be accessed through Spectrum Control;
  • Unified file and object storage with per-file policy-driven compression, manages data growth and enables scale-out for 2x improvement in storage efficiency (source:IBM);
  • Highly available write cache (HAWC) and local read only cache (LROC) reduces data bottlenecks;
  • Automated tiering moves files based on the file’s “heat”, optimizing file placement;
  • Integrated Native HDFS eliminates the need to move data back and forth between HDFS and Hadoop increasing performance for immediate results;
  • Single “data lake” serving HDFS, files and objects across sites increases global collaboration;
  • Apache Ambari support automates Big Data deployment; and
  • Spectrum Scale RAID provides faster rebuild times with minimal performance impact, erasure code software, end-to-end checksum and much higher mean-time-to-data-loss (MTTDL).

IBM Spectrum Control Version 5.2.8

IBM Spectrum Control (available as-a-service and on-premises) consolidates the management of file, object, block and software defined storage and uses predictive analytics, automation and advanced monitoring to proactively identify storage performance problems.


  • Integration with Spectrum Scale for object storage provides consolidated views and simplifies the management of file and object storage, increasing efficiency and reducing costs for faster problem resolution.
    • Provides the ability to compare storage across clusters, view cross cluster relationships and compare performance across clusters; and
    • Consolidates administration across file, block and object storage showing the full set of relationships, as well as enabling storage grouping for chargebacks, and customizable alerts.
  • Integration with IBM FlashSystem, enables capacity management on all FlashSystem models.

IBM Software Defined Storage – New Product Previews

IBM Spectrum Storage Suite

The IBM Spectrum Storage Suite will provide a single capacity-based license (based on usable capacity) including all IBM Spectrum Storage offerings—encompassing block, file and object storage and supporting a range of workloads from Big Data and analytics to more traditional workloads such as back-up and recovery. This mix and match licensing model is geared toward both new customer and existing customers of IBM Spectrum Storage products. It allows, for example, customers to seamlessly move from capacity under Spectrum Virtualize to additional capacity under Spectrum Scale, or to switch from block storage to file storage—allowing for flexible and adaptable growth. A pilot program in 4Q15 will enable IBM to work with clients to determine the optimal pricing/packaging scenario before the planned full roll-out in early 2016.

Big Storage

Through a partnership with Iron Mountain, “Big Storage” will integrate local and cloud storage, providing a secure, easy-to-use, low-cost cloud-based storage service tier for very large archival storage needs. Supporting manual or policy–based archival, this solution enables seamless cold data storage with a global namespace across all tiers, as well as predictable and fast retrieval for infrequently accessed data. A future release will allow analytics on archived data.

Summary Observations

With Big Data getting bigger, and budgets either fixed or shrinking, businesses are looking for ways reduce storage costs while still maintaining the ability to securely collect, store and analyze massive amounts of data to provide business insight that will improve competitive advantage and increase revenues. Working closely with customers, IBM has evolved their software defined storage offerings to ensure that enhancements are released as needed, to provide immediate client value. And customers are seeing that value — with the ability to securely store more data while reducing storage-related costs.

While historically IBM has had a strong feature-rich set of storage software offerings, the muddle of changing product names and acronyms could be difficult for new customers to decipher and understand. These steps toward integrated product offerings and bundled pricing reduce the complexity of ordering and deploying IBM software defined storage, and enable customers to derive additional value from the synergistic nature of the Spectrum product family.


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