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IBM says “Don’t Cloud Wash!” Then Proceeds to Cloud Wash; SNIA Commits to New Testing Standard

Last week the DCIG team attended the Fall 2011 Storage Networking World (SNW)
show in Orlando, FL. While there were a lot of cool storage companies,
only two meetings left any kind of impression on me: one with IBM and
another with SNIA.

My impressions are driven based on my focus in the electronic storage industry.  As an analyst I spend more time looking at Information Management, Governance, Risk and Compliance from the perspective of product adoption and business intelligence, e.g. predictive analytics.  So, eating lunch and dinner with our readers is always a great experience.

While eating lunch with Edil Vicenty, Director of Enterprise Architecture at the Central Florida YMCA, he commented “The educational sessions are packed with business justification for the technologies discussed.” 

He identified a Monday morning session, SNIA Tutorial: Data Center Evolution and Network Convergence., by Joseph White, Distinguished Engineer at Juniper as a good one.  While lunch with Edil was great, IBM left me understanding, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Dan Galvan, VP of Storage Systems Marketing and Strategy, IBM Systems and Technology Group, had little to say about the cloud announcement with Nirvanix.  When I asked if he was going to comment on it, he answered flatly “No.”  ( DCIG, however, did take the opportunity to comment on it in a blog entry last Friday: Cerner and IBM Send Industry Message that Nirvanix is How Enterprise Cloud Storage Will Be Done)

Galvan did share that a lot of vendors had been cloud washing, but was reluctant to state names.  Galvan’s message that vendors are cloud washing was well received but in retrospect, Dan was preparing us for his message.  After he talked about cloud washing, he then provided us with a new marketing story for IBM’s Storwize V7000 and SONAS products.  Now, according to IBM, these are “cloud storage solutions.

In a nod to cloud washing, IBM’s Galvan first tried to tell a cloud story, but then shared product updates. The three for the Storwize V7000 included:

  • Clustering to scale performance
  • File storage based on SONAS technology
  • IBM Active Cloud Engine

Of the three product updates, the most interesting is IBM’s Active Cloud Engine. Active Cloud Engine is the policy system that IBM supports across its SONAS and Storwize product lines. This policy system currently supports moving files based on last access though IBM left me wondering when Active Cloud, Storwize, SONAS and Nirvanix were going to work together.

Tragically, the Storwize V7000 will be using the SONAS file protocol engine. This engine is a distributed file system architecture based on GPFS that requires a distributed lock manager (DLM).

Distributed lock managers only work well in a LAN or MAN networking environment and using a DLM in a WAN environment means the WAN must be low latency and highly available, e.g. MAN. Thus, the Storwize V7000 and SONAS are not well suited for distributed cloud storage environments due to the limitations of DLMs.

IBM Sonas and Storwize Marketecture
Where local or metro oriented data centers are concerned the Storwize V7000 combined with SONAS can be a good solution. Further, I don’t disagree that Storwize combined with SONAS is a replacement for expensive file storage from the top tier NAS companies, like EMC and NetApp.  When asked if announcing Storwize integrating with SONAS was going to be competitive to IBM reselling the N-Series, Galvan responded, “No, IBM’s messaging discipline will ensure it won’t be.”

This messaging is wishy washy.  In a local or metro data center IBM won’t comment on the co-opetition alignment with NetApp. Further, at the cloud level, IBM skimmed over SONAS remedial support for distributed storage.  In addition, there was little talk about its Active Cloud Engine, its new agreement with Nirvanix and whether or not IBM will release RESTful APIs, e.g. Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS).  In this respect, IBM, Galvan and his team need to stitch together a better story.

“Moving the Clouds” was the sunny disposition and clarity delivered by Wayne Adams, Senior Technologist in the Office of the CTO at EMC, on the Emerald Program.  The Emerald Program is a SNIA-funded-cross-vendor program sharing information on storage system “power usage and efficiency.”

One of the crucial points Adams shared was regarding the SNIA Emerald taxonomy.  Getting an industry to agree on taxonomy related to anything about performance is near impossible.  The challenges posed for “energy efficiency and use” are no different than those posed by product and performance testing with DCIG previously covering the difficulty in product testing in a prior blog entry


The taxonomy is a major milestone because companies who compete head to head for billions of dollars don’t like to agree on much of anything.  Two key terms from the taxonomy are Idle and Active metrics.  To identify those terms, SNIA Emerald Program team evaluated models used by the EPA, Energy Start, etc.  For example, a consumer equivalent is the EPAs City versus Highway MPG rating for automobiles. 

As is the case with Highway MPG, an Active State system has certain metrics that must be met.  For example, some systems perform routine housekeeping.  To properly understand energy use in an Idle State, the period of measurement must exceed the time required for the system to enter housekeeping.

After hearing about this, I asked Adams, “As analysts we have a baseline for measurement and valuation?” Not so fast, responded Adams. The Emerald Program is only ONE of several data points to consider when purchasing storage infrastructure. 

At DCIG we understand these challenges and recommend standing up a DCIG Buyer’s Guide next to the key points from the Emerald Program.  Further, as the Emerald Program terms and conditions allow, vendors and end users may see some representation of the Emerald Program results in our Buyer’s Guides.

Credible, Cloudy and Consistent

It is clear to me that SNW and SNIA event management are taking a closer look at the presenters and their material.  This is a good sign that future shows will deliver credible technology details and business roadmap for adoption.  IBM must clear up their story around the Storwize V7000, Active Cloud Engine, Nirvanix and SONAS.  Lastly, the Emerald Program created consistency on energy use testing and terms.  We can ALL benefit from its adoption.  Where DCIG Buyer’s Guides are concerned, DCIG is listening.

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Joshua L. Konkle

About Joshua L. Konkle

Vice President DCIG, LLC Joshua Konkle is Vice President at DCIG LLC, an independent storage analyst and consulting firm. Mr. Konkle has been a business advisor with them since September 2006.

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