IBM's high performance SAN products target cloud and virtual data centers

IBM's smarter SAN infrastructure should improve storage performance for virtual and cloud workloads.
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

IBM's analyst relations folks sent me an storage area network (SAN) infrastructure announcement a while ago. Since I was busy working on projects for several clients, I filed it away for later study.  I did a fantastic job of filing the announcement - I couldn't find it later.  The message just turned up. It had gotten filed in a trip folder along with the flight itinerary and hotel reservations. I'm sorry IBM.

IBM launched several storage area network products designed to improve overall storage performance by adding intelligence to the Fibre Channel network infrastructure, the switching that is designed to use that infrastructure and the IBM network advisor that is designed manage the network and the SAN infrastructure. Those organizations that have adopted converged network/SAN infrastructure will find these products interesting.

Here's how IBM summarizes the announcement

The new offerings include:

  • IBM System Storage SAN768B-2 and SAN384B-2 backbones – among the industry's newest Fibre Channel switching infrastructure, providing reliable, scalable, high-performance foundations for private cloud storage and highly virtualized environments.
  • IBM System Storage SAN48B-5 SAN switch – designed to meet the demands of hyper-scale, private cloud storage environments by delivering 16 Gbps Fibre Channel technology and capabilities that support highly virtualized environments.
  • IBM Network Advisor – software management platform that unifies network management for storage area networks (SAN) and converged networks.

Snapshot analysis

Announcements of this sort, basic infrastructure components, are often not as flashy or interesting as the announcement of some new storage server. That being said, each component of a SAN can enhance or degrade overal performance.

IBM has put quite a bit of thought into these devices and software. The goal was to make the SAN more intelligent to improve support for virtualized desktops, servers and better support remote private, public or hybrid cloud implementations. Another goal was to make converged network/SAN infrastruture more manageable and fit into a single management dashboard.

What IBM and other competitors have learned is that virtual and cloud SAN use cases make different demands upon the storage infrastructure than more traditional physical systems supporting similar workloads. The read/write mix is different and that defeats some of the cache optimization techniques used for previous generations of high performance storage systems.

IBM appears to have spent quite a bit of time evaluating real world storage systems to determine where their engineers could add value and these products are the result.

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