January not even out yet and already we have an interesting technology market happening; IBM’s withdrawal from the x86 server market does lead to a number of questions. Both on the future of IBM but also on what IBM feel the future of the market is; yet could this be another market that they withdraw from only to long-term regret as they did with the network market allowing Cisco to dominate?
IBM’s piecemeal withdrawal from the hardware market; a retreat to the highlands of the legacy enterprise market in hardware will lead to questions across the board as to what the future is for any IBM hardware. I am not sure of the market acceptance of their converged compute/network/storage strategy in the form of PureSystems; their me-too ‘Block’ offering but surely this is dead-duck now; Lenovo may continue to make the x86 components for IBM but how committed can we feel that IBM is to this. IBM appear to have completely ceded this space to their competitors; personally I’m not convinced by most of the converged offerings and the value but to completely cede a market seems to be rash.
But how does this impact IBM storage?
The heart of IBM’s Storwize product set is x86-based servers; SVC especially was ‘just’ an IBM server. IBM were one of the first companies who really leveraged the idea of the server as storage; Shark is and was simply a pair of RS/6000 or pSeries boxes, this has allowed them to utilise and share R&D across divisions. Something which should have been an advantage and enabled them to do some clever stuff; this stuff they demonstrated yet never delivered.
Now there is no reason for them to simply source the servers from others, the same as almost every other storage company in the world and it moves the Storwize product set firmly into the realms of software (it was anyway) but will IBM move Storwize to a software-only product?
There is part of me who really feels that this is inevitable, it may be as a reaction to a move by a competitor; it may be as a move to enable a vV7000 to run as a cloud appliance? It may well end up being the only way that IBM can maintain any kind of foothold in the storage market.
No I haven’t forgotten XIV or IBM’s Flash offerings; XIV is a solid Tier 1.5 offering but it is also a collection of servers. XIV’s issue is really scalability and simply putting larger drives in is just reducing the IOP density. The Flash offering is as good as many and if you want raw performance without features; it is worth considering.
IBM’s GSS could be built into something which scales and with many of the ‘features’ of XIV. And in a software only IBM Storage strategy; it could develop into a solid product if some of the dependency on specific disk controllers could be relaxed. Yet the question has to be whether IBM has time.
And yet without either a scalable NAS or Object store; IBM have some real problems. None of which are are really hardware problems but moving away from building your base platform probably makes none of them easier to solve.
Or perhaps if they concentrate on software and services….