IBM Spectrum Virtualize Review

For me the most useful has been the virtualisation of back-end SAN disk systems

How has it helped my organization?

My view of how the product has aided my customers varies. The replication functions have assisted in the relocation of whole data centres from one site to another, the snapshotting is of value in providing several versioned recovery points for some other customers. The virtualisation of the back end storage gives performance improvements over the direct attachment of the back end storage, as storage pools spanning a large number of drives can be configured, along with the caching algorithms. The migration capability across back end storage appliances has been of particular importance to some of my customers.

What is most valuable?

There are several good features, many of which have similarities to that of competitive offerings from other vendors (replication, snapshot). Compression is quite useful, but for me the most useful has been the virtualisation of back-end SAN disk systems, from almost any vendor. This enables easy upgrading and updating of storage, across vendors, by moving the storage pools between the back end disk systems. Migration from configurations where servers have storage provisioned from older SAN disk systems to newer storage systems is almost seamless using image mode migration techniques, with only a short outage of the servers. The hybrid storage pools, with SSD and the hard-disk drives, together with the Easy Tier feature, give high IOPs performance for most loads, without the customer needing to purchase all flash storage solutions.

What needs improvement?

Adding features for data deduplication is one area of improvement.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I have encountered stability issues in situations when the customer-provided AC power has defects. A newer version of the firmware resulted in storage nodes not updating or starting.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

No issues with scalability encountered.

How are customer service and technical support?

Currently, support is generally good, as there is an IBM support web interface to lodge calls. Once the call has been initiated, responsiveness depends on the support contract conditions. The technical expertise, once reaching level 2 or higher, is good.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Going back to the SVC edition of Spectrum Virtualize, I do not recall any comparable alternative storage virtualisation solution.

How was the initial setup?

Like any storage implementation, the details of the complete setup of this solution requires a good understanding of the customer requirements. The base setup of the product itself has varied over time, but has always been fairly straightforward.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Generally the bundled licensing is more cost effective and gives flexibility to the solution. Linking into the Spectrum Suite can also be advantageous, but depends on the scale of the enterprise.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Recently with the many storage virtualisation solutions now available, consideration of other products depends on the size of the customer and their requirements, and what vendor/technology provider may already exist in their organisation.

What other advice do I have?

Spectrum Virtualize has a long history, with the original SAN Volume Controllers (SVC) using early versions of the software. The software on these appliances has had several name changes over the years. I have worked on and been involved with pre-sales, design and implementation on the early SVCs from 2005, and more recently the Storwize implementation, V7000s, 5000s and 3700s. So, product 2145-xxx, 2076, 2077, 2072 and so on. These are all IBM appliances, with their Spectrum Virtualize software running on them.

Obtain a well-qualified technical specialist/architect to review the design and setup if many features such as replication, snapshotting and compression are part of the solution.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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