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IBM is kicking off the new year with an update to their storage offerings that offers a new face and set of capabilities to help clients with modern data management and recovery capabilities.  It’s always nice to see a big player like IBM make these moves as clients continue to demand more from their storage solutions in an ever-changing IT landscape.  The recent announcements from February 8, 2022, add a full update on the midrange and high-end FlashSystem portfolio, but more importantly, there is an enhanced focus on data recovery in the event of a cyber security breakdown or successful data breach.

Cyber Security is a top priority for all IT departments, now more than ever.  There isn’t a week that goes by I don’t see a news article, hear from a client, or from an industry contact of a major ransomware cyber-attack bringing a company to its knees.  While investment is largely focused on building a barrier to stop, or at least identify and address when an attack occurs, there is an aspect of planning for these attacks that can be the most valuable, but is often overlooked, the recovery of the environment in the event of a successful attack.  IBM, with the latest announcements is addressing the recovery from an attack directly by building upon the existing IBM Safeguarded Copy capabilities and streamlining the recovery after an attack.  IBM is announcing Cyber Vault offerings for the FlashSystem and Spectrum Virtualize environments and this will position IT shops to recover faster and safer than ever before.

But the IBM FlashSystem Cyber Vault offerings are not the only items being announced, let’s do a high-level review of the hardware updates that are a part of the announcements.  I’ll then review the Cyber Vault capabilities and what IBM is doing in this space.

The IBM FlashSystem portfolio has been a very strong option in the block storage space for years.  Clients love the flexibility and simplicity the portfolio offers, and the performance has always been a highlight of the storage systems when compared with others in the market.  Last year, IBM had an update to the entry level FlashSystem portfolio and this year, they are updating the IBM FlashSystem 7000, IBM FlashSystem 9000, and IBM SAN Volume Controller hardware as well as the innovative Flash Core Modules (FCM) to extend the already industry leading capabilities.

The IBM FlashSystem 7300 is an update to the midrange solutions.  Updated processors to the 10 core Cascade Lake CPUs, Dual internal NVMe devices for boot drives and added bitmap and metadata support, leveraging of the new FCM3 modules with improved hardware enabled data reduction, and 100Gbe support for host attachment.  All these improvements amount to a 30% performance improvement and up to a 50% in data reduction capabilities when compared to the latest FlashSystem 7200 systems. IBM is also making a change to how the IBM Spectrum Virtualize software is tied to a FlashSystem.  It will be directly integrated into the machine code, so no longer will the software be separated for licensing and support.  The days of opening a hardware and software support ticket are gone!  A much-appreciated change from the days of the past.

The FlashSystem 9000 models are also updated with an IBM FlashSytem 9500 and IBM FlashSystem 9500R models.  These new systems will also offer updated 100Gbe capabilities along with the new IBM FlashCore Modules (FCM3) support.  However, the FlashSystem 9500 and FlashSystem 9500R also now support up to 48 NVMe drives internal to the base system.  It also now supports up to 48 FC ports (32Gb today, with support for 64Gb coming soon).  Memory capacity is double to 3TB and new CPU with 96 cores of the Ice Lake processors.  These changes make the FlashSystem 9500 and FlashSystem 9500R tremendously more powerful for processing the most demanding storage workloads.

The SAN Volume Controller line is getting an update as well in the form of the SVC3 with 2x the read performance capabilities compared to the SVC2 models.  This is accomplished with the change to dual Ice Lake CPU’s, doubling of the memory to 3TB per node, doubling of HBA slots to 6 over the prior model, and adding 100Gbe support.  That’s a ton of horsepower to leverage with the virtualized platform!

As previously mentioned, IBM is also announcing an update to the FlashCore Modules with the new FCM3 options.  While a raw data capacity update is not part of the change, changes were made to the data reduction technology which resulted in the capability of hitting 3:1 data reduction hardware enabled on the FlashCores themselves.  This builds upon the already great software enabled data reduction capabilities of the FlashSystems and can immediately see a 50% increase in available logical capacity for systems.  Big simple changes that can help justify the upgrade with capacity/licensing savings right out the gate.

While these hardware updates are huge and a great reason to look at the FlashSystem portfolio, the most exciting portion of the announcement is around the Cyber Vault capabilities.

IBM Safeguarded Copy was already a key component of the FlashSystem Cyber Resiliency value.  This offering ensures data on the FlashSystem can be protected against Ransomware attacks through immutable snapshots.  This allows for the data to be protected and ensured a version of the data on the system cannot be modified or deleted through a ransomware attack.  The new IBM FlashSystem Cyber Vault offering takes this to a whole new level through capabilities to quickly identify the possibility of a data breach, quickly recover the data in an isolated environment to ensure the data is clean and recover the data in minutes to hours rather than the days it usually takes to recover from an attack.

Cyber Vault can be integrated with SIEM solutions like QRadar from IBM to quickly identify when a breach is possibly occurring and be leveraged to quickly come back from that breach.  IBM estimates a data breach recovery averages 23 days in the industry, if it comes back at all.  Nearly 50% of data is never recoverable, and this impact leads to a 31% loss if client/partner retention and nearly 60% of the companies suffering a breach ends up out of business within 6 months.  Those are huge industry risks that need addressed.  While a solid security profile is needed to protect from a breach occurring at all, a big part of the security plan should include the recovery should a breach happen.

With the IBM FlashSystem Cyber Vault solution, users can get full recover before legacy models even identify a breach occurrence.  That results in incredible business value when dealing with ransomware attacks.

So, what is the first step in being able to take advantage of the Cyber Vault offering?  First, reach out to your Logicalis account team.  They can help you gain a better understanding of the solution and how it can help.  Logicalis can also leverage a handful of assessments and workshops to help you understand your exposure, plan to protect your organization, and provide professional services to implement any recommended changes to mitigate your exposure.

  • Cyber Incident Response Storage Assessment
    • Identify areas of risk to your storage and its ability to recover from an attack. 
  • Cyber Vault Architecture Workshop
    • Design the solution needed to support your fast recovery and protection of your data
  • Cyber Vault Installation and Configuration Services
    • Deploy the designed solution to ensure it is done correctly and get the fastest route to a successful deployment
  • Cyber Vault Automated Validation and Recovery
    • Prove it works and automate through Ansible playbooks and tie ins to security software to make the recovery as fast as possible and minimize any impact to your business

A simple email or call to Logicalis can start you on the path to protecting your environment and end up with the fully automated secure solution needed.

IBM’s storage announcements are exciting to say the least.  New hardware, new capabilities, and new solutions to address the needs of the IT industry are now available to ensure the storage in your environment is fast, scalable, and secure for now and into the future.

Michael Vannette is the Director of Modern Data Center Pre-Sales.