FlashSystem In, Storwize Out After IBM Storage Shakeup
February 17, 2020 Alex Woodie
IBM rejiggered its storage array lineup last week when it consolidated the old Storwize arrays into the FlashSystem line and introduced several new FlashSystem offerings. Big Blue now uses NVM-Express drives almost exclusively across the FlashSystem family, which will support deployments in hybrid cloud configurations, while also offering new options for performance-enhancing storage class memory.
Like other storage vendors have done, IBM has elected to reduce the number of product lines in an attempt to not only simplify naming conventions, but to reduce technical complexity for customers. For IBM, that means eliminating the Storwize brand by merging it into the FlashSystems line.
This move is about simplification for IBM. It’s not unusual for a single company to have storage arrays from multiple manufacturers, and even to have multiple array types from the same manufacturer. This lets manufacturers deliver specific capabilities to customers, IBM says. But when you add it up, all those disparate arrays bring a lot of baggage in the form of separate access paths, backup and high availability processes, management interfaces, and skillsets for managing them.
“Different organizations have different requirements for storage,” writes IBM storage chief Eric Herzog in a blog post. “Even different applications within a single organization may have different needs, such as entry point, performance, scalability, data services, functionality, and availability. Storage vendors have traditionally responded with unique storage platforms to meet these varying requirements.
“But with that uniqueness comes complexity,” Herzog continues. “Different management and troubleshooting. Different APIs and automation. Different paths to cloud . . . . There’s been plenty of innovation, but that can be accompanied with great complexity and higher cost.”
In a bid to reduce that cost and complexity, IBM is now positioning its FlashSystem array as the go-to offering to meet nearly all of its customer’s storage needs. That runs from entry-level systems, like the FlashSystem 5000, to the midrange FlashSystem 7000, and up to the high-end FlashSystem 9000. There will be a FlashSystem array for every conceivable storage need, except at the extreme high end, where the Power-based DS8800 line still rules the roost for the largest IBM i and System z shops.
Here’s a rundown on the new FlashSystem lineup:
Formerly called the Storwize V5000E, the FlashSystem 5000 is IBM’s entry-level family of storage arrays that can be configured with hundreds of NVM-Express drives or a mix of NVM-Express and traditional spinning drives with capacities ranging from 900 GB to 14 TB.
FlashSystem 5000 arrays can connect to more than 500 different computers, from IBM and other vendors. Connectivity options run the gamut, including 1 Gb/sec and 10 Gb/sec Ethernet iSCSI connections; 12 Gb/sec SAS connectors; 16 Gb/sec Fibre Channel, and 25 Gb/sec iSCSI. Each FlashSystem 5000 control enclosures offers either four or eight ports, depending on the type.
This array runs the Spectrum Virtualize software (now updated to version 8.3.1), which drives a variety of features, including automated data movement; synchronous and asynchronous copy services for on-premises and to the public cloud; high availability configurations; storage tiering; and data reduction technologies, including deduplication.
The array supports RAID levels 0, 1, 5, 6, 10. On the HA front, it supports FlashCopy, Metro Mirror, and Global Mirror; mirroring is even supported with dissimilar offerings within the IBM FlashSystem family (it also supports the SAN Volume Controller, which is now part of FlashSystem). HyperSwap is available on FlashSystem 5030 models.
Buying this array will also get you a free subscription to IBM Storage Insights, a cloud-based storage analysis offering that gives customers a unified view of the state of all their IBM block storage. (User can pay to upgrade to Storage Insights Pro, which offers support for block and file storage, as well as a longer historical view of data and support for EMC VNX and VMAX systems.)
There are two arrays in this family, including the FlashSystem 5010 and FlashSystem 5030, both of which used to be in the Storwize line. The FlashSystem 5010 systems scale to 392 large form factor (LFF) drives per system with the attachment of four 3.5-inch drive expansion enclosures, while the FlashSystem 5030 can scale to 504 drives per system with the attachment of eight expansion enclosures. Power supplies and fans are hot swappable, as is standard on storage gear like this, and the system supports six nines of availability, IBM says.
The FlashSystem 5030 control enclosure features two 6-core processors and up to 64 GB of cache, while the FlashSystem 5010 control enclosure features two 2-core processors and up to 64 GB of cache. Only the FlashSystem 5030 supports encryptions of data at rest. For more info, see IBM United States Hardware Announcement 120-010.
IBM says the FlashSystem 5100 (formerly Storwize V5100) is an “all-flash” offering that can also be configured in a “hybrid flash” configuration. When purchased in an “all flash” configuration, it will support NVM-Express FlashCore Modules, while the “hybrid flash” configuration will support IBM FlashCore Modules (FCMs) as well as “industry-standard” NVM-Express drives in the control enclosure, as well as SAS flash and SAS spinning disk drives in the expansion controllers.
IBM has introduced a new high-end FCM that sports 38.4 TB of usable capacity, which is twice the previous generation.
Each FlashSystem 5100 control enclosure features two canisters, each with an 8-core processor and a minimum 32 GB of cache (increasable to 192 GB to 576 GB per system). The FlashSystem 5100 can support up to 760 drives (either 2.5-inch small form factor or 3.5-inch large form factor) depending on the type and number of expansion controllers selected. Users can also cluster two FlashSystem 5100 systems (or one FlashSystem 5100 and one older Storwize V5100 system) to accommodate up to 1,520 drives.
Depending on the configuration, the FlashSystem 5100 can support 16 Gb/sec and 32 Gb/sec Fibre Channel (FC) connectivity options, with FC-NVM-Express support; 25 Gb/sec Ethernet connectivity options with iSCSI and iSER (RoCe V2 and iWARP). It’s worth noting, for IBM i shops, that the RoCe support will enable this system to be used with Db2 Mirror continuous availability technology.
The FlashSystem 5100 can also accept storage class memory drives from Intel and Samsung, in capacities of 350 GB, 750 GB, 800 GB, and 1.6 TB, which will give the system some serious data-moving pop for applications that require extremely low-latency connections (we’re looking at you, banking apps). For more info, see IBM United States Hardware Announcement 120-009.
Like the FlashSystem 5100 line, the FlashSystem 7200 supports IBM’s FlashCore Modules and storage-class memory. What separates it from entries lower in the stack are its software-defined storage design for multi-cloud environments, and expanded high-end scalability.
The specs aren’t that much different for the FlashSystem 7200. The core offering, Model 824, supports two node canisters, each with two 8-core processors and 128 GB of cache (with options of up to 1,536 GB per system). On the connectivity front, the FlashSystem 7200 Model 824 sports eight 10 Gb/sec Ethernet, 16 Gb/sec and 32 Gb/sec Fibre Channel (FC) connectivity options with FC-NVM-Express support, and 25 Gb/sec Ethernet connectivity options with iSCSI and iSER (RoCe V2 and iWARP) support. Users can connect expansion enclosures using 12 Gb/sec SAS connections.
IBM also offers the 2076 Model U7C, which is identical to the Model 824, but is designed to be used for cloud-based storage utility offerings. “The variable capacity billing uses IBM Spectrum Control Storage Insights to monitor the system usage, enabling allocated storage usage above a base subscription rate to be billed per terabyte, per month,” IBM says.
A FlashSystem 7200 clustered system can contain up to four FlashSystem 7200 systems and up to 3,040 drives. IBM also gives users the option of connecting FlashSystem 7200 Model 824 systems to FlashSystem 9100 and FlashSystem 9200 systems. For more information, see IBM United States Hardware Announcement 120-012.
The final new FlashSystem system to be introduced last week was the FlashSystem 9200, which IBM is billing as an all-flash, software-defined storage offering for the most demanding workloads.
Each FlashSystem 9200 NVM-Express control enclosure feature two node canisters, each equipped with two 16-core processors with up to 768GB of cache, giving the total a system total of 1.5 TB memory. Users get eight 10 Gb/sec Ethernet ports standard per control enclosure, or up to six 16 Gb/sec FC, 32 Gb/sec FC, or 25 Gb/sec Ethernet ports.
IBM says that Model AG8 FlashSystem 9200 systems can scale up to 760 drives with expansion enclosures. When three additional fully outfitted FlashSystem 9200 systems are clustered, a total of 3,040 drives are supported. They can also be clustered with FlashSystem 7200 and Storwize V7000 arrays. Like all the FlashSystem offerings, the 9200 supports Spectrum Virtualization software as well as IBM Storage Insights.
The entire FlashSytsem line works with servers customers use today, and are ready for systems of tomorrow, including containerized deployments built on Red Hat OpenShift, Kubernetes, and CRI-O through IBM’s support for Container Storage Interface (CSI). That makes the systems ready for on-prem and cloud deployments, the company says.
“The simplification of the IBM Storage portfolio means a single FlashSystem family built on a common software platform providing the same APIs and the same management across on premises and in the cloud,” Eric Burgener, a research vice president with IDC says in IBM’s announcement. “We believe this radical shift to their portfolio will significantly increase both the value and innovation delivered to IBM Storage customers.”