November 23, 2017

As the number of stateful applications being developed using Docker containers increases, a battle has broken out among storage vendors anxious to grab a share of an emerging class of workloads. The latest vendor to extend the reach of its storage software by adding support for both containers and Kubernetes is IBM.

A driver is being added free of charge to the IBM Spectrum Control Base Edition that enables container-based applications to access IBM storage systems running either IBM Spectrum Accelerate or IBM Spectrum Virtualize software. Storage systems running IBM Spectrum Virtualize can be attached to more than 400 different server platforms. Integration with Kubernetes cloud orchestration software and IBM Cloud Private, an instance of a private cloud that can be deployed on-premises or in the IBM Cloud public service, is also being provided.

IBM also unveiled a denser version of its all-Flash array that uses 3D NAND Flash memory-stacking technology from Micron Technologies and new compression algorithms based on a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) to increase overall storage capacity of an IBM all-Flash storage system by a factor of three. It also enables the ability to employ IBM Spectrum Virtualize on an IBM Public cloud for disaster recovery.

Finally, IBM revealed it is in the first stages of employing machine-learning algorithms to collect diagnostic data that will be used to optimize storage I/O performance.

Eric Stouffer, vice president of distributed storage offering management and business line executive for IBM, notes that the advent of systems based on NVMe backplanes will require IT organizations to also upgrade their storage systems to eliminate bottlenecks. IBM has already indicated it is containerizing its database and middleware software, so having storage systems capable of interacting with, for example, DB2 databases hosted in a container is now a requirement. IBM is making a case for using containers to modernize legacy applications using containers as a first step to either adding microservices to extend functionality or as part of a long-term effort to eliminate inflexible monolithic applications altogether.

The combination of NVMe, next-generation Flash technologies and microservices based on containers promises to transform much of how IT is managed today. Instead of a handful of monolithic applications sharing access to IT infrastructure, there will soon be hundreds, possibly even thousands, of microservices trying to access the same data. There is a high potential for contention for resources in that environment. A new generation of IT infrastructure promises to eliminate that contention by connecting all-Flash storage systems to an NVMe backplane that was designed from the ground up by Intel with Flash memory technologies in mind.

IBM isn’t the only provider of IT infrastructure anticipating how microservices-based on containers will eventually force a series of IT infrastructure upgrades. The rate at which those upgrades might occur is unknown. But given the level of competition among IT infrastructure providers for any workload that isn’t hosted on a public cloud, it’s already apparent that IT organizations deploying containers in an on-premises environment will being getting an inordinate amount of attention from a crowded field.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.