Software Tools will make Storage run Efficiently: Viswanath Ramaswamy, IBM

IBM has also done a hardware-based accelerated compression on its FlashSystem 9100

Photo Credit : Reuters,

IBM recently announced the IBM FlashSystem 9100 next-generation of an accelerated, multi-cloud enabled and AI-enabled FlashSystem.

Viswanath Ramaswamy, director, Systems India/South Asia, IBM, tells us more about the IBM FlashSystem 9100. Excerpts:

BW CIO: First, tell us about the announcement.

Viswanath Ramaswamy: This is a revolutionary announcement and it is just not hardware that is going as a product launch or an announcement, while the outcome is that. However, clearly as a journey, we have been providing Systems Infrastructure and Solutions, primary for the cloud as a cognitive era.

This particular announcement of FlashSystem 9100 emerges under the three fundamental principles.

* First principle being, primarily to, how do clients use data, protect it and run it more efficiently. We use protection thinking how is that, with the same pieces, how can they have business continuity and resilience with the storage what they have. This is primarily emerging from the fact that kind of workloads and characteristics that are in demand in any client organization has been moved into a multi cloud environment or Hybrid cloud environment or digital workloads or AI Space workloads.

* Business continuity is fundamental. We have designed systems which cater to that. Now, this announcement is primarily to compliment or compute with the Flash storage.

* The third principle is a flexibility for clients to go into private cloud environment. You can have a cloud on-premises, which has a lot of advantages, offerings as a part of this package in terms of utility-based offerings, in terms of pay as you grow kind of offerings and so on and so forth.

BW CIO: What does the FlashSysten 9100 encompass? 

Viswanath Ramaswamy: The FlashSystem 9100 fundamentally encompasses from a hardware and software perspective is one of the first of its kind in the industry that is based on NVMe flash storage. If you look at traditional flash storage, which industry calls Solid State Drives, which are prone to failure while they may not be spinning, the amount of error rates are also visibly high.

This one is completely based on what we call non-volatile memory. The second element, which goes into this product and solution, is our software-defined storage, which is our Spectrum Virtualization Software. The third is the IBM FlashCore technology. The combination of these three, intersection or culmination point of all these three is primarily driving the digital trend. The data reuse protection, the business continuity, and multi-cloud kind of a flexibility.

The other pieces, which have really gone into this solution to form these fundamental principles, for the first time we have done a hardware-based accelerated compression.

Most of our clients are going towards data-driven multi-cloud enterprise. Storage is growing at a very rampant pace and clients are looking at more efficient ways of storing data. It is not that you keep buying petabytes and petabytes of storage, store it in one place, and then do a backup, which is a very inefficient way of buying the storage solution for the growth of the data, which is being driven.

It has to be a combination of, how do I make it more efficient, what all can it can back up on the cloud, what all it can back up on the premises, so on and so forth, and at the same time not compromise on the performance also. We are looking at a flexibility around that. The Flash 9100 actually can provide up to two petabytes of storage and that is the kind of capacity in just two space of a rack.

BW CIO: How is it expected to perform in India?

Viswanath Ramaswamy: When I look at India per se, to understand what the big advantages to the client are, you can use Flash to run efficiently in an existing environment. The client could possibly be having either IBM or non-IBM storage, and this here would be something which we can deploy to complement with the existing storage because the infused software-defined storage technology will have zero impact on migration.

The data that transparently moves between the Flash IBM storage into possible non-IBM storage irrespective of what they have, we have a unified cross storage platform management to do the replication during and provide high level of security. So, that’s the biggest advantage clients can leverage of not starting from scratch but rather complement to this and grow on top of it.

BW CIO: Has any investment protection been built in?

Viswanath Ramaswamy: There’s a lot of investment protection for clients. When I look at data protection, more often than not today clients use reuse data for maximizing agility. They take a lot of copies, orchestrate the copies, maximize the snapshots which is typically done in a storage. Now it either can be packed up for a backup on the cloud or can take a backup in the public cloud or on-premises, and that is an inbuilt feature in the Flash 9100. This is attributed to our software-defined storage.

Many of these combinations are really helping us. In addition, we don’t need to have the copy of your backup, specifically for DevOps and analytics and reporting. You do not need to have the copies of the data residing on-premises, you could always have the copies on a public cloud. You could then recover those applications either on any of the public cloud services provided. You can easily shorten the workloads and capacities between an on-premise or a public or a private cloud. You can juggle around, reuse, and shift the data to maintain business continuity.

That also leads to the point that you can deploy it in various forms of cloud offerings. Now something unique which we are offering specifically on the product is client could be wanting over a period of time, a 10 petabyte of storage, over a period of time because of the growth but they don’t require it on day 1.

Possibly, in three years’ time they require 10 petabytes, so essentially we have 10 petabyte of the floor and there could be bare minimum capacity that you could start to use and don’t buy the rest right now and this utility based offering for client to convert that into an Op-ex or pay per usage of every terabyte they use. Per terabyte per month. Here we split down approach of bringing your average cost down. In addition, we are announcing this utility-based model across all our product line of IBM storage. Not just on FlashSystem 9100.

BW CIO: What are the challenges faced by companies while saving data, and how can IBM Flash System help?

Viswanath Ramaswamy: What the clients are really facing today is that every workload, whichever application you run, has got a characteristic requirement you have to compute and characteristic different requirement for storage. Due to this, clients, over a period of time, built a lot of islands of storage in their organization.

For example, in a bank, they will have one island of storage for their core bank, another for the digital banking, which is then internet, mobile; there would be another island of storage for all the periphery requirements, another island of storage, which will be on the public cloud for possibility non-mission critical applications.

Now, they are not able to re-use the data from one island of storage to another. Neither are they able to efficiently replicate. Storage is just an addition by buying more and more terabytes but what clients are really facing today, the pain points, they’re not able to efficiently use what they have created over so many years and quarters.

The second pain point we are really looking at, with Flash 9100 what you can really do is, you have island of storage running all your most critical workloads that are required and this one could be on top of it and could manage all the other islands of storage under one window. This system could define which storage needs to be stored in what form of capacity and performance. For example a core banking, internet banking, or mobile banking, obviously the response time is required in milliseconds or microseconds.

Flash 9100 would possibly define that this storage will be requiring this particular value of storage because the response rate for that is very high. And for the bank processing side of the data, the storage can be much slower because it could affect the client experience if deployed in other form. Flash 9100 addresses this one window pain-point, to re-use data and improve the efficiency across island systems.

The next piece that client is facing today is, there are multiple of these workloads which they are running on public clouds, or a hybrid cloud based on requirement. What we call a multi-cloud operation. There is an island of storage which is online, there is another set of island of storage on the public cloud, how do I seamlessly use data and replicate between the two much more efficiently and at a much faster pace?

My need to have the continuity of the business at any given point of time, and as well as being able to recover data, almost at zero seconds, is what you can get with Flash 9100 because of the inherent capability of the software which we have put in. It gives you complete business facility and it does not really matter what is the storage that is out there, it could be an IBM storage or non-IBM storage. It is agnostic to all of this. That makes it even more open, and much more efficient.

BW CIO: What is the direction for the future of storage?

Viswanath Ramaswamy: What we also introduce is the third piece, as the future of storage, we always talk about Artificial Intelligence. From a compute stand point of view, we have incorporated Artificial Intelligence Algorithms in the Flash 9100 to do all of these jobs.

The storage is intelligent enough to do all the resource management, what all platforms it can take care of, where the data should be, how to do the migration, and all the analytics of all the islands of storage under it. It is a kind of AI built into the storage. More often than not we relate AI to more servers, but I would say that this is an AI enabled Flash for the first time in the industry. 

BW CIO: What is the competition in the field doing?

Viswanath Ramaswamy: This is a revolutionary industry first. We are creating a next generation of storage. All along, IBM has been the leader in the market of Flash technology in India and we have one of the largest footprints, many of them of IBM Flash Storage from the early generation. This FlashSystem takes it to the next level completely. So, it’s accelerated, multi-cloud enabled, business enabled and AI enabled, one of a kind.

BW CIO: What are the storage trends for the future?

Viswanath Ramaswamy: Couple of things which are really coming in a big way, there are macro industry point of view which is influencing us to build this storage. In addition, another is the internal client point of view, in terms of building storage architecture.

Somewhere, we had to find a common ground because the regulations that are likely to come in terms of either as GDPR, in terms of having data to be residing within territorial waters of the country, for all security reasons and so on and so forth. There is an increasing level of direction or a trend which states that while we are used to the traditional – could be have storage, need to have it on-site, or the need for a third site.

Alternatively, that it has all been within the country, but now there is a need to have data reside within the country, at the same time replicate across geographies, across countries, continents, etc., and at the same time, protecting the privacy of the data to be within the territory. And that's increasingly being seen as a trend which is more of a macroeconomic factor. More like an external factor, which is affecting storage architecture.

The second thing internally, what clients are facing as factors, which are affecting the storage blueprint are primarily the fact that with this onslaught of digital transformation coming at very fast pace, our clients are being challenged to go to their own clients, which are consumers at large, to be more responsive and agile. All of us are into mobile banking, would be doing transactions, payments, buying stuff, any of those, we are looking at more and more responsiveness and experience that we can provide to the consumers at large in a much more effective and efficient way. That’s really driving storage requirements of the client.

One is the external thing started by regulators or industry, which is influencing the storage blueprint, and another piece of how their consumers are driving our client to rethink and redesign storage altogether. The traditional approach works no more. You have built new technology into it.

Over a period of time, there’s a trend we also see is while the hardware would be there which is intelligent and pretty much have capacity, capability and reliability. The defining moment in storage, which we have seen over the last one year or more is that is clients are increasingly saying how the efficiency of running a storage and deploying it, does not lie with how many petabytes or terabytes it can take, but of efficiently it can run with the petabytes or terabytes much better with the software tools which can be implemented on it.

With the same raw capacity of 300 terabytes, say, a read file, possibly 100 terabytes, but in that 100 terabytes can I compress my data to such an extent that 100 terabytes typically we see allows to store 500 terabytes of data, because every file or data written on that storage has been compressed by 5 times. This is what Flash does. So, the direction of the trend is, not the hardware which is defined blueprint, but what are the software tools which will make that storage run efficiently over the defining moment.

These are the three broad trends which we are really looking at on how efficiently are clients looking at in running their storage.

BW CIO: Finally, what is IBM’s roadmap for India?

Viswanath Ramaswamy: We are leaders in terms of Flash; we are leaders in our software-defined storage in terms of our spectrum offerings. Year after year, we see constant growth on these two technologies because this is what clients are really resonating. Which means, from a business plan perspective, we are looking at more and more revenues and client acquisitions to come in from across all segments. We cannot really say that telecom is big, or banking is big, because storage is pervasive.

These two will be our flagship, leadership technologies, which we plan to take forward, increase our wallet share, and become clearly a dominant player in the market from a leadership position into a dominant position.

The second piece is in terms of creating a strong partner ecosystem, and a strong channel ecosystem to drive these technologies. On one end of the spectrum, you have the low-range, low-cost storage, that is the run rate model, which is the primarily driven through our channel and partners, from across all the ecosystem providers. That will be our go to market plan, which will be autonomous in nature.

That itself, we have come out with lots of exciting programs, especially for our channel partners and our ecosystem partners that drive these technologies of storage. That has created a lot of buzz and excitement, which is what we want to translate in good amount of revenues that incline our position.


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