IBM Unveils Storage Software Plans

Gettin' StorageTanked

Giving administrators a view into the future, IBM Corp. unveiled its plans for storage software products for the coming year. It plans to release a storage virtualization appliance, a new network file-system, and to continue to base its storage management products around industry standards.

IBM’s upcoming storage virtualization product will be a Linux-based appliance that manages files and virtual volumes across a shared storage pool. The server will connect to the SAN and contain metadata for managing the storage pool.

Chris Saul, disk system planner at IBM, says IBM decided to develop a Linux-based appliance for storage virtualization, rather than software to install on a server, since it can offer better reliability for end users. “There’s just a bizillion Intel servers and HBAs out there,” Saul says. With an appliance, IBM can dictate qualified adapters and other hardware, reducing interoperability conflicts.

Storage virtualization pools storage volumes into a single volume then slices the pool to dedicate space to applications or servers. Virtual partitions can be resized dynamically, allowing enterprises to quickly resize a virtual volume and get the most value out of existing storage capacity.

The virtualization appliance contains the metadata necessary for virtualization. It ties block-level data stored in the pool to the virtual volumes. The appliance also acts as a traffic cop, allowing different servers to access the same data in the pool, but ensures two applications to do not write to the same place at the same time.

Saul says the storage appliance will also support TCP/IP connections in addition to Fibre Channel. Enterprises will be able to use the SAN in the same manner as a NAS device. Servers can connect to the storage pool via TCP/IP for situations or applications where Fibre Channel is not appropriate or feasible.

IBM also said today it would introduce a new file-system better suited to the SAN environment. Dubbed “StorageTank” the file-system is designed specifically for IBM’ virtualization technology and will also be deployed in NAS products. According to IBM, the technology was also designed with an eye toward file-based, rather than block-based, management.

When these products are released next year, IBM will initially support several open-systems operating system. Saul says IBM focused on AIX, Solaris, HP-UX, Windows NT, and Linux for the first release. When asked about OS/390 or zSeries, Saul said most mainframe customers prefer to keep mainframe data on mainframe systems, but IBM was working to develop a way for mainframes to read data written by open systems.

IBM also reaffirmed its commitment to developing its storage products around standards set out by SNIA and others. Saul contrasted this commitment with another large storage vendor that opened its API, but otherwise showed little regard for standards coming out of industry bodies. He believes that although SAN interoperability has had a lower profile in the industry press, the amount of work aimed toward vendor interoperability increases all the time.

About the Author

Chris McConnell is Product and Technology Editor for Enterprise Systems.