IBM overhauls Shark arrays

By Dave Simpson

Billing it as the most significant redesign since the product line was introduced three years ago, IBM this month enhanced its TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server ("Shark") RAID arrays with a number of performance-boosting architectural changes, including:

  • Copper chip technology;
  • A doubling of internal cache (versus the predecessor model F20) to 64GB;
  • 2X improvement in internal bandwidth to 3.2Gbps;
  • 2GB non-volatile store;
  • 2Gbps transfer rate on FICON adapters; and
  • Availability of 15,000rpm drives (as well as 10,000rpm drives) and a 3X boost in total capacity with 36.4GB drives.

IBM claims performance increases of 2X (vs. the F20) on the new model 800, and 2.5X on the model 800 Turbo, as well as a reduction in response time of up to 40%. The 800 has four processors, and the 800 Turbo has six.

Despite the performance improvements, analysts do not expect the introduction to change the playing field for IBM and its primary competitors-EMC and Hitachi Data Systems (and HDS resellers Hewlett-Packard and Sun). "This is a game of leapfrog and, being the latest to jump, IBM may have a [performance] advantage, at least against EMC," says Mike Kahn, chairman of The Clipper Group consulting and research firm, in Wellesley, MA.

But Kahn points out that most users do not need the utmost in performance. "For most customers, the 2X to 2.5X performance improvement is more about headroom than immediate need," says Kahn. "Few end users buy solely because of technology leadership. Today, it's as much about service and applications support."

IBM also added support for RAID 10 (1+0 mirroring and striping), in addition to RAID 5, and claims a maximum 50% performance improvement on its FlashCopy backup software and up to a 125% performance improvement on its Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy software. Other enhancements are in the areas of reliability, availability, and quality of service.

Bucking the trend toward Fibre Channel disk drives in high-end RAID arrays, IBM continues to use its Serial Storage Architecture (SSA) drives in the Shark arrays.

High-end disk arrays are typically discounted, and IBM officials declined to provide specific pricing information, saying only that the 800 will be priced the same as the F20.

This article was originally published on August 01, 2002