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IBM to Acquire StorWize

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storwizelogoI read with interest yesterday’s announcement from IBM that they are to acquire Storwize, a vendor of NAS compression technology.  Maybe I don’t understand enough about the technology, however I don’t see much benefit in installing an application in front of my NAS environment to only achieve between 50-90% reduction in storage.  What’s more surprising is that IBM would want to acquire this technology.

Firstly, let’s summarise the benefits of the Storwize offering:

  • Better Storage Utilisation
  • Lowers Capital and Operational Costs
  • Better Energy Efficiency

These bullet points are taken directly from the Storwize website and are then expanded into more detail.  Whilst implementing compression may save some storage space in the short term, it doesn’t address the overall reasons for growth within an organisation and at some stage capacity will reach previous levels, regardless of the ability to compress that data.  I’d also agree that compression reduces some capital costs – but these will be via cost avoidance rather than the ability to remove existing hardware.  This implies that the savings can only be made if significant growth exists in the environment in the first place.

Implementing compression and de-duplication is analagous to the person who won’t face up to their debts.  Each month they find other ways of avoiding bankruptcy; take out a new loan, extend credit, use one credit card to pay off another. Eventually the house of cards comes falling down.  This may be a dramatic comparison but in the storage world, with data compression, the growth rate still continues;  the underlying problem hasn’t been addressed.

So what about the negatives?  Well, firstly, all data needs to go in and out of the appliance.  This immediately puts in place restrictions and bottlenecks.  It also creates another layer of compatibility and support.  It also introduces scalability issues that then needs to be addressed by implementing multiple devices; all of a sudden a different management problem arises.  Here’s another thought; if the appliance is removed, does all data need to be “unpacked’?  If the underlying NAS environment is replaced, does the data have to come in and out of the appliance as it is moved to the new location?

So, now to what seems more surprising; acquisition by IBM.  From my experience, IBM has plenty of knowledge and expertise in data compression technologies, stretching back decades; think of IDRC in 3480 tape cartridges as a simple example.  Why then do IBM feel the need to acquire this technology?  In addition, where will IBM sell this technology – in front of Netapp rebranded filers?  How does that square with the use of ASIS de-duplication?  Is this acquisition implying ASIS isn’t fit for purpose?

Only time will tell if this is a sound acquisition of the demise of another startup; I’m sure the guys at Storwize are pleased; they have had their idea validated and no doubt made some serious money.  Kudos to them…

About Chris M Evans

Chris M Evans has worked in the technology industry since 1987, starting as a systems programmer on the IBM mainframe platform, while retaining an interest in storage. After working abroad, he co-founded an Internet-based music distribution company during the .com era, returning to consultancy in the new millennium. In 2009 Chris co-founded Langton Blue Ltd (www.langtonblue.com), a boutique consultancy firm focused on delivering business benefit through efficient technology deployments. Chris writes a popular blog at http://blog.architecting.it, attends many conferences and invitation-only events and can be found providing regular industry contributions through Twitter (@chrismevans) and other social media outlets.
  • http://www.noplanningrequired.com Chuck

    I think the IP would make an interesting addition to the feature set of IBM’s SONAS product or perhaps the compression algorithm could be implemented directly on the XIV grid controllers since XIV currently offers no online dedup/compression features.

  • http://permabit.com Tom Cook

    Chriss,

    You make some great points.

    Let me jump into the “appliance/data path” issue. I could not agree more, compression is a data path operation. The very issues created – restrictions, relaiability and management are best addressed in and “owned” solution and for that reason the acquisition makes sense to IBM and Storwize. Compression fits well with SONAS, XIV, SVC and yes, NetApp filers. But also IBM knows integration and a higher value use of Storwize is to embed it in IBM solutions and overcome some ot the other challenges you mention.

    Compression technologies abound and as you state, IBM knows them well. I think the value of Storwize was not the compression technology, but it was how they improve the perforamnce of the compression process for more demanding workloads. That is valuable to IBM from a time to market perspective as data optimization takes hold in the market.

    I’d say the impact of lowering the effective cost of IBM storage by a signficant percentage – say 50% is pretty valuable when you put that in terms of maintaing gross margin and market share – remember the technology applies to $ billions in storage. Isn’t this really a very solid first step toward primary data optimization by IBM?

    Cheers,

    Tom

  • http://www.brookend.com Chris Evans

    Chuck/Tom

    Well made points about SONAS which I hadn’t considered. Tom, I agree the integration route is the key thing. Obviously IBM found value and have plans – otherwise they wouldn’t have purchased! :-)

    Chris

  • Yves Pelster

    Chris,

    In my perception people tend to simplify DeDupe as a common phrase.
    “De-Dupe”, in my eyes, is very much like “blue” – there are many shades of it.
    While I do agree DeDupe cannot solve the problem (data growth due to lack of governance, discipline, and ever larger file formats), I think a realtime deduplication can buy time, saving not only disk space but energy as well in the mean time.

    In IBMs Portfolio you can already find some different kinds of DeDuplication. Combine DeDuplication and “Lossless Compression” into something you might call “Pay for Software, not spindles” you find ProtecTier for VTL, (realtime, block-oriented, very secure), TSM for file-level, A-SIS in NetApp OEM products and-so-on.

    I agree that this must be aimed at the very high NAS/GNS solutions such as SoNAS – and I am curious to see when and where the technology will show up in bundled solutions.

  • kacab

    Hi!

    Regarding XIV and no compression and de-dupe. XIV is doing a so-called “zero space reclamation” and the same applies to SVC 5.1 (on the newest nodes)

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