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Friday, July 30, 2010

IBM acquires Storwize, A real-time in-line lossless data compression

A new announcement is spreading across all storage magazines saying that IBM announced today that it has decided to acquire Storwize which provides real-time data compression technology.

About Storwize
Storwize, headquartered in Marlborough, MA, with an R&D office in ISRAEL, provides online storage optimization through real-time data compression. Storwize's Random Access Compression Engine™ (RACE), applied in its STN appliances, transparently (in-line) compress primary storage up to 80 percent. They promise random access and deterministic, lossless data compression with no reduction in performance.

Key Values
The Storwize solution value is based on three issues.
  1. It is based on existing industry LZ compression algorithms, such as the one being used in standard tape backup operation, but its revolutionary idea is that it does it in real-time with no data loss.
  2. It is very simple to deploy; it is a plug&play solution that is seamless to day to day operation, installed in less than 30 minutes. Compression can begin immediately for new data; old data is compressed seamlessly over time.
  3. It presents immediate ROI - it allows a significant saving from day one and enables bigger operational capacity in storage and performance with current investment. 
 Figure 1: Typical Storwize solution

Advantages with current storage investment 
  • An implementation of the Storwize solution will provide the following benefits. 
  • Compress the data on existing network storage systems and save the next disk purchasing investments.
  • Compress data going in to the storage systems, which means it will extend the performance capacity of the current systems to a longer periods and delay the acquisition of such systems.
  • Immediate boosted to user experience will be as a result of this reduction of load on the storage system.
  • Reduce the need for users to sort, delete or compress their files and keep up with their current quota, hence freeing users from tedious tasks, and focusing on real work. 
  • Recovery time from tapes will be reduced dramatically, as less data will be transferred from the tapes to the disks. 
  • Power saving - Green computing - when using less disks to store compressed data, you save the power of the disks shelves that were needed for the uncompressed capacity. 
  • Smaller footprint - Floor space savings, when using less disks shelves, you delay the need to expand the expensive data center floor space. 

Risks to consider 
As any new solution to be integrated in to your computer environment and being it relatively new technology on the market it presents several risks that must be address or at least be aware of.
  • The appliance is placed in-line between your network switch and the storage system, which means it is another failure point in the critical path of your environment. -Precaution: Make sure you deploy Storwize’s fault tolerant solution to avoid single point of failure.
  • Overlooked compressed configuration could result in data loss  - Precaution: Set configuration control procedures and change management to avoid faults. 
  • Introduction of a totally new system with no prior experience  - Precaution: Seriously consider holding training sessions for IT personnel who will manage this environment. 
  • Scale out lockdown when using Storwize solution with new NAS technologies. No support for global/shared name space - Precaution: Consider deploying this solution on isolated controllers at least until Storwize offer a solution for Persistent namespaces. 
Conclusion 
With over 18 months of experience of working with this solution, I can say, the results it presented were great. I noticed a very good compression ratio of typical data on the storage systems, while presenting performance improvements. Some configuration issues were discovered early in the deployment however they were immediately resolved by Storwize.  This solution is indeed revolutionary in its concept and the results. It presents many advantages and some risks which should be addressed as advised if this solution is to be considered.

-Nir

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