IBM Enterprise2014: Life After Intel, Disks & (Storage) Hardware

LAS VEGAS: It’s the second annual IBM Enterprise event, which combines IBM (, or Big Iron) Technical University, the IBM (the mini-me platform) Technical University and the Enterprise Executive Summit, featuring heavy doses of education, training and certification. However, for an event billed as the premier enterprise infrastructure (i.e. hardware) conference, which drew an audience of 3,600 customers and partners, up 35% from last year’s debut, software featured prominently in the Day 1 announcements.

Technically, the hardware announcements weren’t really made at the conference, and instead were released on Friday, the day after the announcement that the initial closing for Lenovo’s acquisition of IBM’s x86 server business  had been completed. Now that it has completely severed its ties to the Wintel duopoly that handcuffed its PC and businesses, Big Blue has announced what it calls a “superior alternative” to -based commodity servers, with nearly 20% better price/performance.

Built on the IBM Power8 CPU and stack, and integrating IBM and other member technologies, including NVIDIA’s GPU technology, the Power S824L servers enable clients to run data-intensive tasks on the CPU while offloading other compute-intensive Big Data workloads to GPU accelerators. IBM said these accelerators are capable of running millions of data computations in parallel and are designed to significantly speed up compute-intensive applications.

It plans to optimize applications like DB2 to take advantage of GPU acceleration on Power Systems. In addition, future Power systems, due out in 2016,  will feature NVIDIA NVLink technology, eliminating the need to transfer data between the CPU and GPUs over the PCI Express interface.

Other Power8 announcements included: IBM Data Engine for NoSQL; IBM Data Engine for Analytics – Power Systems Edition; Power Enterprise Systems; and Power Enterprise Pools. All offerings are scheduled for GA on October 31.

Unlike its commodity server business, which IBM was happy to unload on — excuse me, sell to — Lenovo, storage appears to be a much more attractive opportunity, at least from the flash and software-defined perspectives. IDC reported that sales of Software Defined Storage Platforms grew more than 15% in the second quarter, and that IBM was the SDS-P leader for the Worldwide Storage Software QView for the 2Q14, based on software revenue.

Meanwhile, over at Gartner, IBM was crowned as the 2013 worldwide leader in flash storage arrays, based on revenue.

Being first is good, but when it comes to enterprise storage, is still king, and EMC still wears the crown (although Dell claims top spot for combined external and internal storage shipments, based on capacities). Given the negligible shares flash and SDS account for in the enterprise storage market, neither EMC nor Dell need to worry too much about the immediate future.

Looking a little further ahead, and their prospects could be a lot dimmer. “The thing we look at is what is the client trying to solve”, said Laura Gulo, VP and Storage Business Line Executive, IBM STG, and nobody in the industry can touch IBM when it comes to end-to-end storage solutions, especially when you throw in cloud and ensuring that everything works together.

“I’ve always said there’s a cost to data,” said Gulo. who’s been in the storage industry for 25 years. When you talk about storage, it’s not just the price per terabyte, but also the costs of space, cooling and the people to manage all that. Then there’s the fact that 90% of all data is only looked at once.

IBM said cloud, analytics, mobile, and security technologies are fueling the tremendous growth in data — generating 2.5 billion gigabytes of data per day — and organizations are suffering from information overload. So the company announced an SDS strategy on Monday intended to deliver data faster, which will allow customers to glean near-time insights and drive strategic business decisions.

The SDS offerings will be available through three delivery models: storage as software (IBM Elastic Storage, SAN Volume Controller and Virtual Storage Center); integrated software and hardware storage solutions  (Elastic Storage Server); and, storage via the cloud (Elastic Storage on SoftLayer). Big Blue also launched IBM Elastic Storage Server, an integrated software defined storage appliance that combines IBM POWER8 server with storage software code named Elastic Storage.

SDS is a small market right now, but Gulo believes it is going to pick up very quickly. She said IBM is taking a leadership position and intends to maintain it.

Software also featured prominently in several mainframe-related announcements:

-IBM InfoSphere BigInsights for Linux on System z – combines open-source Apache Hadoop with IBM innovations to deliver enterprise grade Hadoop for System z clients;

-IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator – enhances data security while delivering 2000 times the response time for complex data queries;

-IBM Elastic Storage for Linux on System z – extends the benefits of Elastic Storage to the Linux environment on IBM System z servers; and,

-IBM Cloud Manager with OpenStack for System z – provides heterogeneous cloud management across System z, Power and x86 environments.

DISCLAIMER: IBM looked after airfare and hotel expenses for this event.

DISCLAIMER #2: I’m also an IBM shareholder.

DISCLAIMER #3: My previous notebook was an IBM Thinkpad., but it died, also at an IBM event in Las Vegas.

DISCLAIMER #4: I used to date an IBMer.

DISCLAIMER #5: I still believe Apple’s anti-IBM, Big Brother TV commercial launching the Macintosh was the best computer ad ever!

Author: Steve Wexler

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