IBM Turns Up Virtualization Heat


IBM reaffirmed its plans to add more logical partitioning (LPAR) capabilities to its DS8000 storage systems, reducing the need to have separate machines and saving companies money.

The DS8000 employs logical partitioning features, which allow clients to run several storage workloads and create virtual storage images.

Later this year, the DS8000 will run applications inside of a single partition by virtualizing the input/output between partitions, just as it exists inside an IBM server, said Rich Lechner, vice president of IBM storage systems.

"The reason it's important is if you virtualize the I/O so the application thinks it's talking over the network -- when in fact it's just talking over memory speeds -- you can dramatically improve performance," Lechner said.

In one example, Lechner said IBM is working with medical imaging companies to put pattern recognition applications inside the partition in the DS8000.

With the LPAR technology, a health care provider treating a cancer patient could search for tumors of a certain size, shape and type, he said, and could find a match and find out what the course of treatments were and what the response rates to those treatments were. He said a patient could receive more responsive treatment.

"That kind of pattern recognition application is very CPU and I/O intensive," Lechner said. "You need something so that it would benefit greatly from living in close proximity to the storage itself. We'd never even dream of doing this if we didn't have utter confidence in the fact that one partition in no way can disturb the other partition."

The LPAR trick is just one of several plans IBM has laid to boost its virtualization offerings for helping customers more efficiently manage large amounts of data.

Lechner spoke in a phone interview from Camden, Mass., where he and other IBM storage officials outlined their technological and strategic plans to stay ahead of competitors like EMC and Hitachi Data Systems by merging server technologies with storage products.

In one strategic coup versus EMC, Lechner said IBM sold Cisco Systems two SAN Volume Controller (SVC) software packages, which the networking giant will use to manage its in-house pools of storage. The kicker is that Cisco uses EMC storage arrays, such as Symmetrix and Clariion.

On the surface, this may not seem like a huge deal. IBM and Cisco already paired their offerings for virtualization to other customers.

But Lechner used that point to emphasize the fact that customers of EMC's storage systems have to look elsewhere if they want to do what SVC does: Manage pools of stored data through one console.

EMC lacks a major virtualization product, but is planning its Storage Router software for the second quarter. IBM sells its SVC, which works with arrays from EMC, HP and Hitachi Data Systems.

Lechner said customers from all over the world are using the SVC and SAN File System (SFS) software, which helps customers consolidate file systems on Unix, Windows, and Linux servers to efficiently route, manage and store data.

IBM is boosting the attraction of SFS by announcing tape support for file movement among storage pools. SFS helps corporations facilitate information lifecycle management practices by making sure the right data ends up on the right storage.


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