February 12, 2020
IBM FlashSystem storage now will be easier for channel partners to sell and service, the company says, after revamping it from three distinct offerings into one integrated product line that uses a common software platform, training and support services.
The latest IBM FlashSystem Storage products are built for a wide range of enterprise storage needs and will replace some 20-30 product numbers with six-part numbers designed to make it easier for partners and customers to deal with, Eric Herzog, the chief marketing officer of IBM Storage, told Channel Futures.
Three of the FlashSystem storage arrays are all-new, while the other three are slightly updated from earlier versions, he said. The devices are storage arrays that can be moved seamlessly to hybrid cloud or run on premises or in the cloud using IBM’s Spectrum Virtualize software for use with any workloads.
IBM’s Eric Herzog
“We have fewer model numbers than before,” said Herzog. “We had feedback from partners and end users who said they didn’t need 20-30 product numbers.”
While competitors are still offering storage lines that include three to five product families, IBM has pared its product line – which previously had three dissimilar product families – into one standardized family to ease their use and deployment, he said.
“Customers were complaining and partners were complaining,” Herzog said of the previous product organization.
For partners and customers, it was too costly and unwieldy to have multiple applications, manuals and training to support, he added.
“By going to one family, it’s easier to get trained and easier to use,” he said. “That makes it less expensive for the partners with the end users.”
The product-line refresh also means that the high-end features of the flash storage line are now on all of the offerings, while mid-range and entry-level customers now get more value for their money, said Herzog. This allows enterprises of all sizes to get what they need when it comes to storage, while also providing for later scalability and expansion.
The lineup now includes the all-new IBM FlashSystem 7200, with NVMe and enterprise-class hybrid multicloud functionality for mid-range deployments; the new IBM FlashSystem 9200 with NVMe for demanding enterprise requirements that require higher levels of performance; and the new IBM FlashSystem 9200R, which is designed for users that need an IBM-built and tested complete storage system that’s delivered ready for use.
Clear Technologies’ Phil Godwin
Also in the FlashSystem family are the updated entry-level FlashSystem 5010, 5030 and 5100 products.
Phil Godwin, president and chief operating officer for Clear Technologies, an IBM partner, told Channel Futures that IBM’s reorganization of the FlashSystem line helps partners by simplifying the messaging while adding increased innovation and reduced costs for IBM storage.
“It’s more likely to encourage our team to lead with IBM” when making sales calls, he said. “It’s a great move — reducing complexity not only for us and our clients, but likely for IBM development and support with only the one family.”
Godwin said he was particularly interested in the introduction of storage class memory in the products, which combined with IBM’s Easy Tier will deliver …
… impressive performance benefits for data intensive workloads.
“Reduced complexity always benefits us the in the market, but I believe this allows IBM to be much more efficient from a development/support standpoint which will benefit our clients,” he said. “Also, this makes sharing the IBM storage story in a hybrid multicloud environment much easier for my sales team.”
Bob Elliott, vice president of storage sales for another IBM partner, Mainline Information Systems, said the announcements combine the best of IBM’s former Storwize product line with the best of its flash products to make it easier for customers to understand and buy. The key to it all is the marriage of Storwize functionality with the performance of flash storage, he said.
Mainline Information Systems’ Bob Elliott
“Having Storage Class Memory and IBM FlashCore technology combined with the AI-driven Easy Tier functionality places FlashSystem as the top performer for both commercial and enterprise accounts,” said Elliott. “The other big benefit is how the FlashSystem has embraced the future of storage with support for data mobility, Ansible automation and Kubernetes container for the next generation of applications.”
Elliott said the new offering is welcome.
“I can’t say that we were ‘seeking’ these changes as much as we needed a manufacturer to step up and simplify their offerings,” he said.
Eric Burgener, a storage analyst with IDC, believes the most important part of the announcement is that IBM is now leveraging the 2U FlashSystem “building block” across its entire primary storage portfolio.
“That commonality, from low end to high end, simplifies administration for customers and makes selling and supporting the products easier because they are all built off of a common hardware component,” said Burgener. “For channel partners, it will make it easier to understand, sell and support the product line. The key benefits of the IBM FlashSystem are very relevant for customers, particularly for those that want all-flash systems.”
At the same time, he said, while Dell EMC, Hitachi, HPE, Huawei, NetApp and Oracle all are firmly in the camp of using off-the-shelf SSDs for their all-flash arrays, IBM and Pure Storage have both taken the route of custom memory modules for performance, storage density, reliability and cost.
Another analyst, Randy Kerns of Evaluator Group, said IBM’s new products make sense for partners and customers because they include a common set of functions and management across the platforms.
“There is also a significant performance increase so they can compete on price/performance effectively with the different models,” he said. “The performance numbers are outstanding. Very impressive. IBM is continuing to invest in development of their storage.”
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