IBM upgrades Shark storage servers

IBM has announced the lastest editions to its range of enterprise storage servers, the ESS 800 and 800 Turbo, that Big Blue believes will give it the lead in enterprise storage

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By  Mark Sutton Published  July 24, 2002

IBM debuted the latest addition to its Enterprise Storage Server (ESS) range last month, a move that should see the company take the lead in enterprise storage technology.

The ESS 800 and 800 Turbo, (both code named ‘Shark’) introduce a number of new technologies to the IBM range, that IBM believe puts their products ahead of rivals EMC and Hitachi Data Systems, although analysts believe that products from all three vendors are now so close that price is much more likely to be the differentiator.

“The latest upgrade will, arguably, give IBM a nose hairs breadth of technological advantage over the competition. But that’s too close to call, given the array of configurations you could utilise… [However] this isn’t the time to judge technical competence between the vendors, this year it’s all about price,” said a recent report from Bloor Research.

The new Sharks include faster symmetrical multiprocessors, larger (64GB) internal cache, 2 Gbps Fibre/FICON data transfer rates, RAID level 10 for high performance applications, project eLiza autonomic infrastructure and up to 27.9 terabytes of capacity. The previous top-end Shark, the F20, was only outperformed by Hitachi’s Lightning by about 5% in benchmarking carried out by the Storage Performance Council, so considering that the ESS 800 has twice the performance of the F20, IBM is confident that it has taken the technology lead according to Jeff Maslen, Storage Channel Development Manager, MEP IBM Middle East.

The enhancements to the ESS mean that IBM is also able to target a wider market than previously, Maslen said. “Because of the changes, it [the ESS 800] is not just something for the high end proprietary systems like mainframes and AS400,” he said. “With changes to the management functions and the eLiza functions, this is really a machine that you can put in a mixed environment, including open system Unix, Windows NT and Linux. The target market is still the high end, but moving down squarely into the mid-range market.”

eLiza is a suite of software that is designed to offer self healing, self configuration, self optimisation and self protection of the hardware, or ‘autonomic infrastructure’. the aim is to provide customers with continuous, simple service from the device, with the minimum of intervention from IT staff. This can provide serious advantages with regards to TCO, Maslen explained.

“We are trying to improve a storage administrator’s productivity, give him better and easier management of his storage, and obviously drive the TCO down,” he said.

Maslen denied that IBM would not just be competing against its rivals purely on price. “There is stuff we offer as standard that our competitors don’t. Mirror-write cache, systems management features—they are not free, they are part of the cost—but you get charged [extra] for those on an EMC Symmetric,” he said. “These products are upgradeable—you can take an F20 from IBM and upgrade it to an ESS 800; if you go to our competitors it is a forklift. We provide a 36 month warranty on hardware and software, on other boxes it is 60 or 90 days. We have eLiza, the competition doesn’t have anything to match that. Complete battery back ups are included—if you go to an HDS [machine] you need to purchase standalone UPS. I think we are different.”

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