Breaking Analysis: IBM Announces Billion Dollar Investment in Flash Storage #flashahead

IBM (NYSE: IBM) today unveiled a strategic initiative to drive Flash technology further into the enterprise to help organizations better tackle the mounting challenges of Big Data.

IBM is announcing today, SiliconANGLE and Wikibon are on the ground in NYC, its long awaited plan around the disruptive technology “Flash” or flash storage.   IBM just announced a $1 billion investment in R&D and is introducing a series of new systems.

The company today also announced  the availability of the IBM FlashSystem line of all-Flash storage appliances, which are based on technology acquired from Texas Memory Systems.  The IBM FlashSystem provides organizations instant access to the benefits of Flash. The IBM FlashSystem 820, for example, is the size of a pizza box, is 20 times faster than spinning hard drives, and can store up to 24 terabytes of data

Additionally IBM discussed plans to open 12 Centers of Competency around the globe. These sites will enable clients to run proof-of-concept scenarios with real-world data to measure the projected performance gains that can be achieved with IBM Flash solutions.

Flash is changing the game.  I just wrote a post here on why this is so disruptive and it’s impact to the modern era of global computing.

How modern applications are being developed and deployed, and the role of hyperscale and cloud computing has changed the game in the computer industry.  The world is flipping upside down.  Generations of computing paradigm, technologies, and business models are being turned around and are upside down.

“The economics and performance of Flash are at a point where the technology can have a revolutionary impact on enterprises, especially for transaction-intensive applications,” said Ambuj Goyal, General Manager, Systems Storage, IBM Systems & Technology Group.

Leaders like Fusionio and Violin Memory have made great strides in moving the market towards what analysts now call Software-led Infrastructure (first coined by SiliconANGLE Wikibon).  This flash trend is going mainstream.   Flash is driving the hyperscale trend.  Hyperscale is coming mainstream and started with the new modern consumer companies.

The largest modern consumer and business providers today such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Zynga use hyperscale systems in very large data centers. These systems are defined to fit a relatively small number of systems or system components. These big modern leaders mostly build their own systems to their specifications as dictated by their application.  Yes that’s correct they build their infrastructure from the top to bottom – from the applications down to the physical.  This is a complete reversal of how it was done with “old legacy” IT technology – legacy like in 10 years ago.

“The confluence of Big Data, social, mobile and cloud technologies is creating an environment in the enterprise that demands faster, more efficient, access to business insights, and Flash can provide that access quickly.”  says Goyal.

Breaking Analysis:
IBM is announcing it is investing $1B in flash – this will include more reasearch, acquisitions, product announcements, and improvements to flash infrastructure, competency centers around the world, future acquisitions. Message is IBM is all in on flash

IBM storage has been focused on the struggling spinning disc storage business for years holding on to hang on to its market share. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s IBM pulled back from storage and squeezed R&D. In the latter part of the 2000’s it had to begin acquiring and re-inventing itself. It bought XIV to compete with 3PAR and Compellent and EMC. In the 2000’s it also invented the SAN Volume Controller – an internally developed project that creates a storage hypervisor – essentially virtualizing anyone’s disk array behind it. This product has been a home run and is the basis for the Storwize V7000 a great name it acquired as part of the Storwize acquisition. IBM, in the past 3-4 years has begun to re-load its guns with the Storwize product line, storwize acquisition (which gives it real-time compression) and now the Texas Memory System (TMS) acquisition.

Here’s the key: IBM is in the best position of any vendor to do true end-to-end flash. Why? because IBM has the OS, file system, server, networking, storage, software, database, big data, open source pieces. There’s no company that has IBM’s resources and portfolio to execute.

It’s new leader – Ambuj Goyal – was instrumental in building IBM’s analytics business through acquisition. He’s a 30 yr IBM veteran who is known for vision and execution. According to industry analysts, he has the authority to go make acquisitions and re-make IBM’s storage business into a powerhouse. Dave Vellante told me that IBM storage is on the move big time and that storage isn’t going to look like they way it used to look.

According to leading storage analyst Dave Vellante of Wikibon.org “storage is no longer going to be a box it’s going to be a set of services (thru software) that allow an open flow of data across the network…. the key for storage is to enable massive amounts of data to be ingested and be able to quickly analyze that data and marry unstructured, structured, transactional, analytic, etc and enable VALUE to be built on top of the data.  The storage platform that does this will be an open, low cost, platform comprised of commodity components with a rich software layer on top that has open APIs.”

Flash is a big piece to the future of storage puzzle. Flash is the lynchpin because as analysts noted it changes application design.

Bottom line: Just look at what companies like Facebook is doing with flash. IBM is making a big push and we expect that they will acquire and invent and build an end-to-end storage vision. IBM has the chops to build a system vision that can take advantage of flash at every level.

We will be following this closely.

IBM’s  – Official Press Release

Flash, a highly efficient re-writable memory, can speed the response times of information gathering in servers and storage systems from milliseconds to microseconds – orders of magnitude faster. Because it contains no moving parts, the technology is also more reliable, durable and more energy efficient than spinning hard drives.

Such benefits have led Flash to pervade the consumer electronics industry and be built into everything from cell phones to tablets. Today, as organizations are challenged by swelling data volumes, increasing demand for faster analytic insights, and rising data center energy costs, Flash is quickly becoming a key requirement to enable the Smarter Enterprise.

To help lead this transformation, IBM today announced that it is investing$1 billion in research and development to design, create and integrate new Flash solutions into its expanding portfolio of servers, storage systems and middleware.

As part of that commitment, the company today also announced plans to open 12 Centers of Competency around the globe. These sites will enable clients to run proof-of-concept scenarios with real-world data to measure the projected performance gains that can be achieved with IBM Flash solutions. Clients will see first-hand how IBM Flash solutions can provide real-time decision support for operational information, and help improve the performance of mission-critical workloads, such as credit card processing, stock exchange transactions, manufacturing and order processing systems. IBM is currently targeting Centers of Competency in China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Singapore, South America, U.K., and the U.S to all be operational by the end of the year.

IBM today also announced the availability of the IBM FlashSystem line of all-Flash storage appliances, which are based on technology acquired from Texas Memory Systems. The IBM FlashSystem provides organizations instant access to the benefits of Flash. The IBM FlashSystem 820, for example, is the size of a pizza box, is 20 times faster than spinning hard drives, and can store up to 24 terabytes of data – more than twice the amount of printed information stored in the U.S. Library of Congress.

Flash systems can provide up to 90 percent reductions in transaction times for applications like banking, trading, and telecommunications; up to 85 percent reductions in batch processing times in applications like enterprise resource planning and business analytics; and up to 80 percent reductions of energy consumption in data center consolidations and cloud deployments.

Sprint Nextel Corp., an early adopter of Flash, recently completed a deal with IBM to install nine flash storage systems in its data center, for a total of 150TB of additional Flash storage. The company was looking for a way to improve the performance and efficiency of its phone activation application. When performance rose and energy consumption dropped, the company began to expand the technology to other parts of the data center. According to Sprint officials, this latest installation is part of the company’s new strategy to move its most active data to all-Flash storage systems.

The new IBM FlashSystem joins the company’s growing stable of all-Flash and hybrid (disk/Flash) solutions which include IBM Storwize V7000, IBM System Storage DS8870, and the IBM XIV Storage System.

About John Furrier

John Furrier is founder, co-CEO, and Editor-in-Chief of SiliconANGLE, a new media company covering the intersection of computer science and social science. Furrier is also the co-founder and CEO of CrowdChat a social media platform for large-scale group conversations over hashtags. In addition to SiliconANGLE John runs Broadband Developments a private incubator and investment firm for creating new startups. Furrier lives in Palo Alto, California with his wife and four children.