Flash, Software-Led Storage Ready for Mainstream Says IBM’s Ambuj Goyal #IBM Edge 2013

Ed. Note: The following is a synopsis of some of the points in Ambuj Goyal’s presentations at IBM Edge this week in Las Vegas. A full story, based on his presentation in the opening General session, his interview on TheCube, and an exclusive interview with SiliconAngle, will be published next week.

Flash and software-led storage are revolutionizing storage, and every IBM client should start moving off disk, Ambuj Goyal, General Manager for System Storage & Networking for IBM’s Systems Storage & Networking in the Systems & and Technology Group told the crowd at IBM Edge 2013. In his first major public outing since his appointment as GM of IBM storage, he said, “I wish I could make storage go away. Of course my job would go away with it.”

Significantly in his presentation and subsequent interviews and statements, he heavily implied that IBM customers should start replacing their disk arrays with flash. Any customer running high-performance disk should begin replacing those arrays immediately to gain the order-of-magnitude read/write performance advantages, but, he predicted, with the constant fall in flash prices the time was coming soon when replacing even SATA drives will be cost-justified on the basis of the savings in floorspace, power, & cooling. He never talked about IBM disk arrays at all, making it clear that IBM’s direction in storage is flash.

In the area of software-led storage he made it equally clear that IBM’s direction is based on OpenStack and open standards. What he termed the “third generation” of Storwize is completely virtualized and based on OpenStack. The old hierarchical data architecture based on expected sources of data is no longer adequate, he said. “We are drowning in data, and it is coming from everywhere,” often from surprising and unpredictable sources at unpredictable times and amounts.

Goyal emphasized that the open nature of the third generation Storwize was an intentional invitation to IBM partners and customers, as well as the open Source community, to build on it, and said IBM would not hesitate to incorporate and support third-party applications, devices, and other contributions when they added functionality to the environment. “Today no one company can do everything,” he said in a marked departure from the days of “not invented here” syndrome.

The new data organization needs to be location-based, in the sense of logical rather than necessarily physical location. The source and kind of data is more important to determining its value than the old hierarchical structure.

Goyal left little doubt that his vision of IBM’s storage future is radically different from its past. Major forces such as Big Data, mobile, social, flash storage, and virtualization, are changing the storage equation. “You will see some vendors try to hold onto their past. IBM will embrace the future.”