Last month, a handful of data storage companies offered their predictions on where the flash market is headed in 2015. Now it's Big Blue's turn.
Jonathan Jones, an IBM storage specialist, shared with InfoStor the directions Big Blue expects flash storage to take in 2015. First, expect the company to build on the momentum it has gained in the expanding market for enterprise flash solutions.
A Flashier IBM in 2015
Who is tops in flash storage arrays? Violin Memory, Pure Storage, perhaps even EMC come to mind.
In 2014, Gartner named IBM the top flash array company for 2013 based on revenue, Jones said. IBM took home a quarter of worldwide spending on solid-state storage arrays, taking the crown from Violin.
Simply, IBM's customers are getting hip to flash storage's knack for making short work out of Big Data and providing them added flexibility and workload portability as they build out their cloud computing environments.
In a statement following the release of Gartner's data, Jamie Thomas, general manager of IBM Storage and Software Defined Systems, said, "Big Data provides tremendous opportunity for our global clients. As organizations look to gain business insight out of the building digital tsunami, more are turning to IBM flash storage as a key accelerator."
Expect IBM to make a little more noise as it works to cement its place as a top flash storage provider in 2015.
Flash as the Lynchpin of Software-Defined Data Center
Just as businesses are getting accustomed to the performance benefits provided by solid-state storage, they are realizing software-defined storage or storage virtualization projects are within grasp.
"It's great for the masses to start talking about virtualizing storage, in addition to flash," said Jones. IBM is catering to this market with products like the FlashSystem v840 all-flash array with built-in storage virtualization tech that enables the system to manage third-party arrays while delivering services like thing provisioning and disaster recovery.
Pushing Old Dogs to Learn New Tricks
Social networks, cloud services providers and well-financed analytics startups aren't the only ones snapping up flash arrays. IBM's traditional – and some would argue traditionalist – customers are getting wise to flash storage.
"Demand is definitely up, interest is up even higher," said Jones. "Healthcare is hot," so are the insurance and banking industries. "Anyone that needs performance as a competitive tool" is jumping on the flash bandwagon.
The stodgiest companies are transitioning to flash, a sign that IBM, and data storage players at large, will find plenty of customers for their flash-enabled wares in 2015 and beyond. "It's kind of cool when you have customers that aren't rigid," he added.
IBM is building storage systems using a flash-first approach, like the v840, "an array that's built from the ground up with flash in mind," said Jones.
Companies stuck on the practice of repurposing their traditional, HDD-based arrays – the ones that simply "took a controller then threw SSDs behind it," as Jones describes it – will find it tougher to compete, he said. IT organizations are beginning to discover that SSDs aren't merely faster, more responsive replacements for HDDs.
The Consumerization of Storage Management
Flash-optimized systems can breathe new life into business apps, but it can come at the expense of the storage administrator's already-frayed nerves. IBM is working to make advanced flash storage management as easy as traditional storage, if not more easy-to-use.
"Previously, storage administrators felt like they needed PhDs to run storage devices," said Jones. Today and in the future, IBM is streamlining user interfaces and automating complex tasks, allowing storage administrators to quickly deliver storage services to both business owners and end users, said Jones.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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