IBM storage blitz lacking in new products

IBM says it has poured more resources into storage to address the growing tidal wave of digital information.

IBM this week announced it has spent US$2 billion boosting its storage offerings through acquisitions, research and development over the past three years.

IBM also announced "its largest launch ever of new storage hardware, software and services." But for the most part, the launch revolves around already-released products.

A disk storage system based on IBM's acquisition of storage-area network vendor XIV, for example, had already been announced on IBM's Web site a month ago. Another "new" product, a high-density tape storage system known as TS3500, has been around since at least April 2007.

IBM also touted new storage virtualization software, but refers only to the SAN Volume Controller, a product IBM released in 2003. IBM marketing director Charlie Andrews acknowledged that IBM hasn't released a new storage virtualization product, but said the SAN Volume Controller was updated with some new capabilities about three months ago.

Andrews says IBM's announcement this week is less about individual products than a strategic shift in which IBM is trying to address customer needs holistically with a consultancy-based approach. Still, he calls this week's announcement IBM's biggest launch of storage products ever.

"We've never had a launch that was close to the number of products we had in this one," Andrews says. "And behind each of these products is a set of people and investments behind it."

IBM's US$2 billion investment over the past three years includes acquiring companies such as XIV and data protection vendor Arsenal Digital Solutions, as well as research and development involving 2,500 employees in nine countries. IBM noted that it also has new de-duplication offerings stemming from its April acquisition of Diligent Technologies.

IBM said it has poured more resources into storage to address growing amounts of digital information created by sources such as mobile devices, electronic sensors, online medical records and social networking sites.

"We've stepped up our level of investment, but it's not a one-time deal," Andrews says.

IBM is training sellers and partners to talk to customers about their data needs and tailor a solution, rather than start off a sales call by pitching a particular product, he says.

"What customers should see is a much more solution-oriented approach to dealing with their problems," Andrews says. The idea is to "talk to the customer about the areas of their business they are challenged in, and from that look at what solutions we can bring to the table." That would include both IBM products and services to help implement them.

While customers won't find much that is new in IBM's storage blitz, there is one product that was announced as recently as two weeks ago, the DS5000 midrange disk storage. IBM also introduced new RAID 6 capabilities for the pre-existing DS8000.

"This is not about a bunch of disparate or individual products, but about an approach to dealing with information infrastructure that has a lot of supporting elements to it," Andrews says. "All these things are coming to fruition and we think through our strategy they're all tightly linked."

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