A flash caching trend is gripping the data storage industry. On Wednesday, IBM’s XIV joined the growing list of IT product lines that are getting caught up in its thrall.

IBM added a new solid-state drive (SSD) caching option to its XIV arrays, a product line for cloud services and virtual environments. A major selling point is pure speed. With up to 6TB of SSD muscle behind it, the XIV caching option can improve performance three-fold, according to the company.

In a nod to the ubiquity of Apple’s mobile gadgets, admins can verify those claims and keep a watchful eye on their storage infrastructures via an iPhone version of its XIV Mobile Dashboard.

A Dash Of Flash In Enterprise Storage

IBM is the latest in a string of companies adopting flash storage to overcome the data transfer limits of disk-based storage systems. On Monday, EMC followed in the footsteps of startups like Fusion-io by officially unveiling VFCache, its own NAND flash-based PCIe card for servers (formerly Project Lightning).

Yesterday, SSD storage provider Texas Memory Systems and Toronto-based NEVEX, which specializes in application optimization cache software, announced they are teaming up to develop “The World’s Fastest Cache.” The aim is to improve the responsiveness of VMware and Hyper-V virtual machines via Texas Memory Systems’ SSD drives.

For IBM, however, it’s more than a case of keeping up with the Joneses. The company has been consistently tweaking XIV in response to a cloud-happy marketplace.

Nuturing XIV During Cloudy Times

IBM has been updating XIV at a steady clip since it acquired XIV’s storage tech in 2008. At the time, it was targeting the burgeoning cloud market with relatively low-cost hardware — by virtue of employing off-the-shelf components like standard SATA drives — and scalable storage systems designed to prioritize data protection.

In July, IBM launched XIV Gen 3. At the time, the storage arrays got a major internal bandwidth upgrade by switching to an Infiniband backplane in place prior models’ Ethernet-based backplane. In October 2011, XIV got a 50 percent data storage capacity bump with the availability of 3TB drives, as well as tablet-based remote monitoring with the release of XIV Mobile Dashboard for the Apple iPad.

Past customers haven’t been forgotten. In addition to the SSD cache option and iPhone monitoring app, IBM is giving customers of previous versions of XIV a measure of future-proofing. They can now mirror data between past generations of XIV and the newer Gen 3 hardware.

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