IBM’s ‘game-changer’ technology for software-defined storage

  • Changes economics of the data centre by reducing storage costs up to 90%
  • Elastic Storage used for Jeopardy! match between Watson and former champs

IBM has unveiled a portfolio of software-defined storage products that it said deliver improved economics while enabling organisations to access and process any type of data, on any type of storage device, anywhere in the world.
One technology in the portfolio, codenamed ‘Elastic Storage,’ offers unprecedented performance, infinite scale, and is capable of reducing storage costs by up to 90% by automatically moving data onto the most economical storage device, the company said in a statement.
Born in IBM Research Labs, this technology allows enterprises to exploit – not just manage – the exploding growth of data in a variety of forms generated by countless devices, sensors, business processes, and social networks, IBM said.
IBM’s ‘game-changer’ technology for software-defined storageThe new storage software is ideally suited for the most data-intensive applications, which require high-speed access to massive volumes of information, from seismic data processing, risk management and financial analysis, weather modelling, and scientific research, to determining the next best action in real-time retail situations.
“Digital information is growing at such a rapid rate and in such dramatic volumes that traditional storage systems used to house and manage it will eventually run out of runway,” said Tom Rosamilia (pic), senior vice president, IBM Systems and Technology Group.
“Our technology offers the advances in speed, scalability and cost savings that clients require to operate in a world where data is the basis of competitive advantage,” he added.
Software-defined storage is a set of software capabilities that automatically manage data locally and globally, providing breakthrough speed in data access, easier administration and the ability to scale technology infrastructures quickly and more cost-effectively as data volumes expand, IBM said.
In addition, these advances can work with any company’s storage systems to provide automated and virtualised storage.
Game-changing tech in Jeopardy!
Elastic Storage was used for a Jeopardy! television match between IBM's Watson and two former Jeopardy! champions in 2011.
For the show, IBM’s Watson had access to 200 million pages of structured and unstructured data, including the full text of Wikipedia. By using Elastic Storage, the five terabytes of Watson’s ‘knowledge’ (or 200 million pages of data) were loaded in only minutes into the computer’s memory.
A key reason the software was chosen for the Watson system that competed on Jeopardy! was its scalability, the architectural limits for which stretch into the thousands of yottabytes. A yottabyte is one billion petabytes, or the equivalent of a data centre the size of one million city blocks.

IBM Research demonstrated that Elastic Storage can successfully scan 10 billion files on a single system in just 43 minutes -- a technology demonstration that translates into unequalled performance for clients analysing massive data repositories to extract business insights, IBM claimed.
At its core, Elastic Storage builds on IBM’s global file system software to provide online storage management, scalable access, and integrated data governance tools capable of managing vast amounts of data and billions of files.
For example, Elastic Storage also exploits server-side flash for up to six times increase in performance than with standard SAS (serial attached SCSI [small computer system interface]) disks. This feature recognises when a server has flash storage and automatically uses that flash as cache memory to improve performance.
Elastic Storage virtualises the storage allowing multiple systems and applications to share common pools of storage. This enables transparent global access to data without the need to modify applications and without the need for additional and often disruptive storage management applications.
Since Elastic Storage is not reliant on centralised management to determine file location and placement, customers can have continuous and highly-available access to data in the event of software or hardware failures, IBM said.
Through its support of OpenStack cloud management software, Elastic Storage also enables customers to store, manage and access data across private, public and hybrid clouds for global data sharing and collaboration.
In addition to supporting OpenStack Cinder and Swift access, Elastic Storage supports other open APIs (applications programming interface) such as POSIX and Hadoop.
Elastic Storage software will also be available as an IBM SoftLayer cloud service later this year.
For more information about IBM big data and analytics, visit
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