Why XIV is so important to IBMs storage business – Its Not About the Technology or Product!

September 14, 2008 – 10:54 am

Storage I/O trends

Ok, so I know I’m not taking a popular stance on this one from both camps, the IBMers and their faithful followers as well as the growing legion of XIV followers will take exception I’m sure.

Likewise, the nay sayers would argue why not take a real swing and knock the ball out of the park as if it were baseball batting practice. No, I’m going a different route as actually, either of the approaches would be too easy and have been pretty well addressed already.

The IBM XIV product that IBM acquired back in January 2008 is getting a lot of buzz (some good, some not so good) lately in the media and blog sphere (here and here which in turn lead to many others) as well as in various industry and customer discussions.

How ironic that the 2008 version of storage in an election year in the U.S. pits the IBM and XIV faithful in one camp and the nay sayers and competition in the other camps. To hear both camps go at it with points, counter points, mud-slinging and lipstick slurs should be of no surprise when it comes vendor�s points and counter points. In fact the only thing missing from some of the discussions or excuse me, debates is the impromptu appearance on-stage by either Senators Bidden, Clinton, McCain or Obama or Governor Palin to weigh in on the issues, after all, it is the 2008 edition of storage in an election year here in the United States.

Rather than jump on the bashing XIV bandwagon which about everyone in the industry is now doing except for, the proponents or, folks taking a step back looking at the bigger non-partisan picture like Steve Duplessie the genesis billionaire founder of ESG and probably the future owner of the New England Patriots (American) Football team whose valuation may have dripped enough for Steve to buy now that their start quarterback Tom Brady is out with a leg injury that will take longer to rebuild than all the RAID 6 configured 1 TByte SATA disk drives in 3PAR, Dell, EMC, HGST, HP, IBM, NetApp, Seagate, Sun and Western Digital as well as many other vendors test labs combined. As for the proponents or faithful, in the spirit of providing freedom of choice and flexible options, the cool-aid comes in both XIV orange as well as traditional IBM XIV blue, nuff said.

In my opinion, which is just that, an opinion, XIV is going to help and may have already done so for IBMs storage business not from the technical architecture or product capabilities or even in the number of units that IBM might eventually sell bundled or un-bundled. Rather, XIV is getting IBM exposure and coverage to be able to sit at the table with some re-invigorated spirit to tell the customer what IBM is doing and if they pay attention, in-between slide decks, grasp the orders for upgrades, expansion or new installs for the existing IBM storage product line, then continue on with their pitch until the customer asks to place another upgraded or expansion order, then quickly grab that order, then continue on with the presentation while touching lightly on the products IBM customers continue to buy and looking to upgrade including:

IBM disk
IBM tape – tape and virtual tape
DS8000 – Mainframe and open systems storage
DS5000 – New version of DS4000 to compete with new EMC CLARiiON CX4s
DS4000 � aka the Array formerly known as the FastT
DS3000 – Entry level iSCSI, SAS and FC storage
NetApp based N-Series – For NAS windows CIFS and NFS file sharing
DR550 archiving solution
SAN Volume Controller-SVC

Not to mention other niche products such as the Data Direct Networks-DDN based DCS9550 or IBM developed DS6000 or recently acquired Diligent VTL and de-duping software.

IBM will be successful with XIV not by how many systems they sell or give away, oh, excuse me, add value to other solutions. How IBM should be gauging XIV success is based on increased sales of their other storage systems and associated software and networking technologies including the mainframe attachable DS8000, the new high performance midrange DS5000 that builds on the success of the DS4000, all of which should have both Brocade and Cisco salivating given their performance need for more Fibre Channel (and FICON for DS8000) 4GFC and 8GFC Fibre Channel ports, switches, adapters and directors. Then there is the netapp based N series for NAS and file serving to support unstructured data including Web and social networking.

If I were Brocade, Cisco, NetApp or any of the other many IBM suppliers, I would be putting solution bundles together certainly to ride the XIV wave, however have solution bundles ready to play to the collateral impact of all the other IBM storage products getting coverage. For example sure Brocade and Cisco will want to talk about more Fibre Channel and iSCSI switch ports for the XIV, however, also talk performance to be able to unleash the capabilities of the DS8000 and DS5000, or, file management tools for the N-Series as well as bundles around the archiving DR550 solution.

The N-Series NAS gateway that could be used in theory to dress up XIV and actually make it usable for NAS file serving, file sharing and Web 2.0 related applications or unstructured data. There is the IBM SAN Volume Controller-SVC that virtualizes almost everything except the kitchen sink which may be in a future release. There is the DR550 archiving and compliance platform that not only provides RAID 6 protected energy-efficient storage, it also supports movement of data to tape, now if IBM could get the story out on that solution which maybe in the course of talking about XIV, IBM DR550 might get discovered as well. Of course there are all the other backup, archiving, data protection management and associated tools that will get pick-up and traction as well.

You see even if IBM quadruples the XIV footprint of revenue installed in production systems with 400% growth rates year over year, never mind that the nay-sayers that would only be about 1/20 or 1/50th of what Dell/EqualLogic, or LeftHand via HP/Intel or even IBM xseries not to mention all the others using IBRIX, HP/PolyServe, Isilon, 3PAR, Panasas, Permabit, NEC and the list goes on with similar clustered solutions have already done.

The point is watch for up-tick even if only 10% on the installed DS8000 or DS5000 (new) or DS4000 or DS3000 or N-Series (NetApp) or DR550 (the archive appliance IBM should talk more about), or SVC or the TS series VTLs.

Even a 1% jump due to IBM folks getting out and in front of customers and business partners, a 10% jump on the installed based of somewhere around 40,000 DS8000 (and earlier ESS versions) is 4,000 new systems, on the combined DS5000/DS4000/DS3000 formerly known as FasT with combined footprint of over 100,000 systems in the field, 10% would be 10,000 new systems. Take the SVC, with about 3,000 instances (or about 11,000 clustered nodes), 10% would mean another new 300 instances and continue this sort of improvement across the rest of the line and IBM will have paid for not only XIV and Moshe�s (former EMCer and founded of XIV and now IBM fellow) retirement fund.

IBM may be laughing to the big blue bank even after having enough money to finally buy a clustered NAS file system for Web 2.0 and bulk storage such as IBRIX before someone else like Dell, EMC or HP gets their hands on it. So while everyone else continues to bash how bad XIV is performing. Whether this is a by design strategy or one that IBM can simply fall into, it could be brilliant if played out and well executed however only time will tell.

If those who want to rip on xiv really want to inflict damage, cease and ignore XIV for what it is or is not and find something else to talk about and rest assured, if there are other good stories, they will get covered and xiv will be ignored.

Instead of ripping on XIV, or listening to more XIV hype, I’m going fishing and maybe will come back with a fish story to rival the XIV hype, in the meantime, look I forward to seeing the IBM success for their storage business as a whole due to the opportunity for IBMers and their partners getting excited to go and talk about storage and being surprised by their customers giving them orders for other IBM products, that is unless the IBM revenue prevention department gets in the way. For example if IBMers or their partners in the excitement of the XIV moment forget to sell to customers what customers want, and will buy today or are ready to buy and grab the low hanging fruit (sales orders for upgrades and new sales) of current and recently enhanced products while trying to reprogram and re-condition customers to the XIV story.

Congratulations to IBM and their partners as well as OEM suppliers if they can collective pull the ruse off and actually stimulate total storage sales while XIV becomes a decoy and maybe even gets a few more installs and some revenue to help prop it up as a decoy.

Ok, nuff said.

Cheers gs

Greg Schulz – Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)
twitter @storageio

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