IBM Explains Its Software-Defined Environment

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“We’re at the right place and right time,” says Bernie Spang, VP, Software Defined Infrastructure of IBM’s Systems & Technology Group

TechWeekEurope sat down with Bernie Spang, VP Software Defined Infrastructure of IBM’s Systems & Technology Group, at IBM’s annual InterConnect conference in Las Vegas, to find out what the company’s unified approach to software storage is all about.

What is IBM’s definition of a software-defined environment?

There are a lot of discussions among analysts about that. The three things you need to think about in a software-defined environment are extraction, automation, and optimisation.

IBM watsonFirst you’re extracting the intelligence from what traditionally was integrated with hardware. You’re enabling automation through the support of open industry standards, services like OpenStack. You can then apply analytics and drive optimisation of the infrastructure based on the workloads that are running.

Our approach, why we use the expression software-defined environment instead of software-defined data centre, is it’s broader than just a single data centre. It’s your entire IT environment – which can be many data centres, data centres around the world, data centres including your own and cloud service providers, and all the mobile devices and IoT devices. What we’re working on delivering here is the ability to optimise your entire environment.

And you do that through open standard interfaces and by not locking it in to any specific hardware – you can get much greater flexibility.

What’s the differentiator in your software-defined infrastructure?

Not everybody has the approach of being available strictly as software that can be used with anybody’s hardware. Not everybody delivers it as software as a service on the cloud as well as integrated. The other providers who are storage only don’t have the broad spectrum of additional capabilities that are in a software-defined environment, for instance the software-defined compute platform. We tie into the other IBM services like cloud orchestrator and Bluemix. That platform computing is an important piece of the puzzle.

What about your flash storage offerings?

Flash is an important piece of this. It’s not only the software-defined infrastructure for optimising the workload, but flash storage as a media is now a cost-effective Tier 1 storage platform. That’s a fundamental shift going on in the market. If I need performance, why would I use disk if I can use a flash system?

This unified approach is unlike what we’ve seen from IBM in the past.

That’s the thing. Our clients have been telling is for quite some time that our qualities are across different divisions and different brand names because of IBM’s history. So Spectrum Storage really signals, along with the 0,65 £ ( $1 [USD])bn five-year investment, that we’re really bringing these things together, we’re investing in the future.

We’re not just storage software or storage hardware, but we’re offering a highly integrated optimised storage solution. Increasingly these storage solutions are hybrid cloud-type solutions.
It’s the right place and the right time.

How about competitors such as Cisco and VMware entering the flash space?

There are others who have various pieces of the storage, but they’re all offering a different piece of the puzzle. That leaves work for customers to stitch things together.

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