IBM Spectrum Storage’s New Licensing Model: Simple, Agile and Efficient

By Jane Clabby, Clabby Analytics

In IBM’s continuing effort to address the evolving storage needs of its customers and prospects, the company has introduced a new licensing model, The IBM Spectrum Storage Suite. Customers can purchase a single license based on usable capacity (in terabytes/TBs) which allows unlimited use of the Spectrum family across block storage, file/object storage, server storage, and cloud-based storage.

According to IBM, customers can realize savings of up to 40% compared to purchasing the products separately. Not only that, the model facilitates customers’ transition to new types of storage supporting new use cases, including storage rich servers, software defined storage and file/object storage. The new model also provides more predictable IT costs, rapid testing and deployment, and a consistent user interface across the product family.

First launched in a pilot program in 4Q15, IBM has worked with customers during that timeframe to determine the optimal pricing/packaging scenario. Specific pricing will be unveiled in February 2016.


The Spectrum Family of software defined storage was first announced in February 2015—rebranding existing storage solutions with new function-oriented names and introducing the concept of a family of integrated, complementary products. The rebranding was followed up with common GUIs and consistent management across the product family and tightly integrated functionality.

The IBM Spectrum Storage Suite goes one step further, enabling customers to “mix and match” Spectrum offerings quickly and easily as business needs change. 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.

Think of the typical enterprise customer with storage and storage management software from a range of different vendors, all with different licensing schemes. Businesses today struggle to stay ahead of the competition and can’t afford delays related to procuring new software licenses and/or deploying new storage types. IBM’s model gives customers instant access (via a simple download) to a range of capabilities that work across storage types and workloads from Big Data and analytics and cognitive to traditional back-up and recovery, all of which can be managed through a common user interface.

IBM Spectrum Storage Suite – A Closer Look

The IBM Spectrum Storage Suite 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 Storage Suite is comprised of:

  • IBM Spectrum Control 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;
  • IBM Spectrum Protect provides data protection and recovery for virtual, physical, and cloud data ;
  • IBM Spectrum Archive provides low cost tape data archive storage easily moving files to and from tape;
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize storage virtualization software enables common functionality, management, and mobility across heterogeneous storage types;
  • IBM Spectrum Accelerate is a cloud-storage platform that enables storage to be deployed quickly and easily on-the-fly; and
  • IBM Spectrum Scale provides high-performance scalable storage software for files, objects and Big Data Analytics and is available as software only, a cloud service or an appliance.

IBM Spectrum Storage Suite Licensing Model/Use Cases

To calculate capacity for pricing purposes, customers simply add up the TBs of physical capacity that will be software defined under IBM Spectrum Storage Suite. For example, a customer may have 650TB of SAN storage, 200TB of storage-rich servers and 2000TB of tape library storage, or 2,850TB in total which will be the capacity used to determine pricing. Under the licensing model, any combination of IBM Spectrum Storage software can be deployed. This gives customers the flexibility to, for example, migrate from SAN storage to commodity hardware and storage-rich servers or software-defined storage without re-licensing or purchasing additional storage software—speeding deployment and improving administrator efficiency.

Available licensing options are described below.

  • Perpetual – Designed for capital expenditure budgeting, a one-time up-front purchase of a single license for all products and an annual subscription and support fee for tech support and upgrades
  • Monthly – Designed for operational expenditure budgeting, a single license for all products with a cost per TB of storage licensed for a specific term with the license including software use, upgrades and tech support for the duration of the term
  • Utility – Designed for operational expenditure budgeting, this option includes a one-time upfront purchase and per TB and per term licensing which is ideal for service providers
  • Sandbox – After purchasing a license for the Spectrum Storage Suite, additional use cases can be tested and used in an evaluation sandbox at no charge; these TB don’t count toward the capacity-based license.

Summary Observations

As IBM refined its software defined storage strategy, it was clear that storage software products from around the IBM organization (GPFS, SVC, LTFS) needed more clearly articulated product positioning, improved integration, and less complexity around ordering and deployment. IBM rolled out the Spectrum Family less than a year ago, with the first incarnation being largely a rebranding of existing products.   Since then, they have released enhancements that provide better integration between the products, as well as the ability to manage the suite of products from a single, consistent user interface, and now. Not only does this make it simpler for IBM customers to deploy and use IBM Spectrum Storage, it makes it much easier for new customers to take advantage of IBM’s software defined storage offerings. In fact, IBM reports that since the rebranding they have added 2000 new Spectrum Storage customers.

The storage market is in flux as customers move from traditional SAN-based block storage to object storage, storage-rich servers and software defined storage environments­. As a result, flexibility, agility and efficiency are key attributes to consider when purchasing new storage software/hardware and when designing a migration plan to support new workloads and applications. The IBM Spectrum Storage Suite, with its flexible licensing model and tightly integrated product set spanning multiple storage types from a range of vendors, enables businesses to quickly and cost-effectively make this transition, supporting changing business needs and new use cases as required.

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