I’ve been thinking about what IBM’s sale of the x86 business means to storage. Here are what I think some of the possible outcomes will be.

My first thought is that it’s clear in this decade that hardware is not driving software, but that software is driving hardware design. IBM is keeping its software, such as GPFS, but likely must now depend on Lenovo for development of products that will map to IBM’s software development plans and needs. It is unclear if this is what will happen, but for the sake of argument assume it will happen.

IBM has a number of x86 storage platforms and the up and coming one, the way I see it, is the GPFS appliance. The critical issue here is that in most cases the hardware margins are low these days for appliances, but you make up for that low hardware margin with software margin. Lenovo is going to have to design and support a hardware product that has low margins and, worse yet, relatively low volume. What’s in it for them to create this hardware platform that IBM can handsomely profit with? Something will have to give here if both are to be successful.

My second thought is: What happens to all of the rebranded NetApp storage products that IBM is currently selling? Do they go to Lenovo, and IBM gets them from them, does IBM keep them or what? None of this is clear.

What is clear is there is turmoil in the market, and what happens when there is? Vendor jockey for a better position, taking advantage of uncertainty and potential weakness. It always happens this way – it always will. It is human nature and we are not going to change how things have been wired for us. The best way to head off this uncertainty is with quick clear statement on the actual direction so there is no uncertainty.

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