May 2 ’14

Delivering the Data: How IBM Storage Is Helping Businesses Succeed

by Editor in Enterprise Executive

Enterprise Executive recently caught up with Greg Lotko, vice president, IBM Storage Systems Development, as he was traveling through Texas to learn about his new role, the objectives he seeks to accomplish and the advances being made in storage.

Enterprise Executive: In your new role as vice president, IBM Storage Systems Development, your organization is experiencing a significant shift in the market with the explosion of data. What is your message to clients and development teams about why the world-class technology IBM develops is a differentiator?

Greg Lotko: With the explosion of data, storage administrators can’t keep doing the same things they’ve been doing for the last 10 to 15 years. They can’t afford to learn different management interfaces, manually place data to avoid hot spots and have different techniques for copy management dependent on a particular storage device. The clients’ message is clear: They need a data architecture that separates data from storage devices. They should be managing data, not managing storage. My message to the development team is straightforward: We need to make this easier for our clients by engineering storage products that manage themselves. We need to transform data through the eyes of the client. It’s not like we’re just starting with this focus. If you look at IBM’s portfolio, we’ve already made strides on this front, for example, with capabilities in XIV with automatic data placement, Easy Tier auto-tiering, the data virtualization platform (SVC) and Real-time compression.

EE: Tell us why you’re here in Texas today.

Lotko: Global teams are key to delivering our strategy. Our people, with their diverse technical talent, are one of our greatest differentiators. It’s the depth and breadth of talent, not just in our core technology and development teams, but our service, supply chain, sales support and business partners who together enable growth opportunities in the marketplace. I’m here to meet the people who develop the innovative solutions that help our clients succeed. Today it’s Texas with our team that focuses on flash, but in my first three months in this role, I’ve committed to visit each of the primary labs around the world where our storage technologies are developed. I'm reminding the storage team that everything starts with the client; how they can leverage our technology, why simplicity matters to them and how we’re helping them solve business problems. I’m also talking about why I wanted to be a part of our storage business. It’s an exciting time to be developing high-value innovations that make a real difference in our clients’ businesses—driven by the speed and efficiency in which they can access their data.

EE: Since you’re visiting with the team in Texas, could you please reflect on the acquisition of Texas Memory Systems (TMS) and tell us why this was so significant.  

Lotko: To succeed in today’s fast-paced IT world, businesses need to be able to not only develop world-class technology in-house, but be equally adept at acquiring technology and effectively integrate those technologies and teams to quickly address market needs. At IBM, we do both of these very well. Our world-class development teams have delivered, and continue to deliver, state of the art technology: Data virtualization platform (SVC), DS8000 enterprise storage, the Storwize family, tape drives and libraries. No company can invest in every technology to perfectly align with market needs. TMS is an example of a company that was a clear leader in all-flash storage. Like most storage companies, we had been leveraging flash in systems designed for disk drives. As flash reached a tipping point that made it cost-effective to apply all-flash storage with its inherent latency advantages, we moved rapidly to satisfy our clients’ needs.

EE: How do you explain to clients that storage is transforming and how do you get them to recognize the value of setting the data agenda?

Lotko: IBM plays a critical role in transforming the speed, efficiency and cost of business for clients, and that’s where the conversation about data economics begins. Clients are drowning in data and spending too much money on storage. If a client’s strategy is to manage, protect and get the most value from their data by moving, optimizing and connecting it in a secure environment—as I mentioned before—they should be managing data instead of managing storage. Information is any organization’s most critical asset and information is derived from data. The efficient management of data is critical to successful cloud and Big Data initiatives. If they’re spending more of their budget and workforce’s time managing storage than getting value from their data, they won’t be able to keep up with competitors who are. As part of the data agenda, innovation is accelerated when we collaborate with clients and partners.

EE: You mention virtualization as a differentiator in data management. Can you tell us more about the three primary benefits of data architecture and how data virtualization contributes to those.

Lotko: Virtualization insulates applications from changes to the physical storage infrastructure. A data architecture from IBM provides the intelligence and efficiency needed from the storage infrastructure, and more important, helps our clients get the most value from their data with the least cost and effort. A data architecture has three pillars that each help drive the focus on data rather than storage:

• Independence: Separate data from storage—this allows clients to focus on data management.
• Orchestration: Automatically, intelligently move data with no disruption to applications and users—this allows data to always be on the right tier of storage.
• Optimization: Implement the latest advanced efficiency capabilities—this allows data to be stored at the lowest cost possible while meeting or exceeding service level agreements.

Data virtualization allows all storage from any vendor to be managed as a single pool. When the environment is comprised of different storage devices from different vendors acquired over time, data virtualization saves both time and money. The most amazing thing about this technology is that it extends capabilities from the virtualization layer across each of the underlying storage devices that they, in and of themselves as a standalone, don’t have. For example, IBM has an industry-leading, Real-time compression capability. With data virtualization, any storage can now support Real-time compression, even storage from other companies. It’s like what a synthesizer or mixing board can do in the music industry, allowing even the novice singer to sound like a superstar.

EE: What kind of pressure does the MegaTrend with Cloud place on storage and the importance of infrastructure?

Lotko: Everyone talks about the server or software in the cloud space. But don’t we all want our storage to be just as flexible and capable? As businesses deploy cloud computing to increase the speed at which they operate or to provide an environment to empower their employees or end-users, they face pressure to provide the right (ideal) infrastructure to access the data. There are three key factors for storage in the cloud: First, instantly respond to constant change; second, provide the ultimate in efficiency to minimize costs; and third, work in cloud deployment models. IBM has introduced new Storage Systems and SmartCloud storage solutions to meet these needs. As an example, our XIV Storage System is grid-based, allowing simple scalability, automating many tedious management tasks and providing the simplicity required for virtualization and cloud environments. It also seamlessly integrates with leading cloud deployment models such as OpenStack and products from IBM and other vendors.

EE: Tell us about IBM's investment in the storage portfolio and how this is helping to gain momentum in the market.

Lotko: Because of our highly integrated approach, IBM Storage leverages the significant hardware and technology investments being made across IBM. Similarly, both our organic and acquired offerings leverage (and even embed) significant software technologies. Further, the hardware/software combinations are frequently “wrapped” in services to deliver fully integrated and optimized storage solutions to our clients.  

IBM has the products and expertise to address the requirements driven by today’s world of cloud, social, mobile and Big Data, which are changing workloads and transforming IT. In this new era of infrastructure, it’s all about choice and flexibility. IBM is providing that with all-flash storage, disk-based and hybrid systems, grid scale storage and data virtualization. The IBM FlashSystem, the Storwize Data Virtualization Family, the IBM DS8870, XIV, tape, as well as all of our storage product portfolio, can help our clients develop a data agenda—a strategic, cost-effective approach for getting the most value from their data.

Last April, IBM announced it will invest more than $1 billion for flash research and development in systems and software over the next three years, including 12 IBM flash centers of competency around the world. At PartnerWorld 2014, we introduced the IBM FlashSystem 840 Enterprise Performance Solution, which integrates our most advanced all-flash array, the FlashSystem 840, with our leading storage virtualization system, the SAN Volume Controller, that gives customers not just tremendous performance gains, but also innovative management features such as Real-time compression, Easy Tier and thin provisioning.

We continue to invest in innovation for high-value solutions, but most important, we continue to collaborate with our clients and partners to define the next generation storage solutions to drive greater success for them in their businesses.