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IBM Spectrum Fusion – Industry Snapshot

Published April 27th, 2021. In this free Industry Snapshot, Sr. Analyst Dave Raffo discusses the new IBM Spectrum Fusion, covering software, HCI appliance, use cases and more. Download the free report now!

IBM Spectrum Fusion

IBM launched new storage software for containers called Spectrum Fusion, which will be available first as a hyperconverged infrastructure appliance and later as software-only.

IBM Spectrum Fusion consists of IBM Spectrum software products tailored to run in containers combined with Red Hat OpenShift virtualization.

Spectrum Fusion will roll out in two stages. Spectrum Fusion HCI will ship on an appliance using an OEM partner’s hardware and the Fusion software stack. IBM expects Fusion HCI will be available around late August-early September 2021 with a six-node minimum configuration.

The second stage in the rollout is Spectrum Fusion software-defined storage (SDS) sold without the IBM-branded appliance. The Spectrum Fusion SDS version will run on third-party hardware, and IBM also intends to make it available in the public cloud on AWS and Azure marketplaces. IBM plans to release Spectrum Fusion SDS in the first half of 2022.

IBM will position Spectrum Fusion HCI as an early container product focused on development teams rather than an alternative to current HCI products such as Dell EMC VxRail, VMware vSAN and Nutanix. Those traditional HCI systems were developed for virtual machines, not containers.

IBM Spectrum Fusion Software

Spectrum Fusion uses Red Hat OpenShift and containerized versions of Spectrum Scale scale-out file system, Spectrum Discover for search and metadata indexing, and Spectrum Protect Plus for container and virtualization backup.

Spectrum Scale’s global namespace provides a single copy of data that can be accessed at the core, edge or cloud. IBM claims Spectrum Fusion can cache file or object data, and tier data to archive and/or tape. It also encrypts data at rest and in flight and supports WORM for immutability.

Fusion also takes advantage of Spectrum Scale’s support for Red Hat Ansible and IBM Cloud Satellite, which is built on Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

IBM Spectrum Fusion’s storage features include:

  • Data resilience through support for Red Hat Open APIs for data protection (OADP) and Spectrum Protect Plus that adds backup for virtual, cloud and container applications.
  • Capacity and performance monitoring with predictive analytics
  • Discovery and orchestration through Spectrum Discover that catalogues and indexes data sources, including storage from NetApp and Dell PowerScale (Isilon), and S3 object storage.
  • Security through encryption and roles-based access
  • Data and application migration across cluster
  • Configuration and storage management

IBM Spectrum Fusion HCI Appliance

Fusion HCI provides a management portal for Spectrum Fusion, Red Hat OpenShift for Kubernetes storage, Red Hat Virtualization Manager and compute, storage and networking infrastructure.

IBM Spectrum Fusion HCI provides:

  • Integrated HCI appliance for both containers and VMs using Red Hat OpenShift
  • Highly scalable containerized file system with erasure coding
  • Data resilience for local and remote backup and recovery
  • Global data platform stretching from public clouds to any on-prem or edge locations
  • IBM Cloud Satellite and Red Hat ACM native integration
  • Clusters ranging from six to 20 servers (with GPU enhanced options)

The base configuration for IBM Spectrum Fusion HCI is a 42U rack with a minimum of six 1U x86 compute/storage nodes. The nodes can scale in pairs to 20 in a rack. Storage in each node consists of a range from two to ten 7.68 TB NVMe flash modules, which also scale in pairs. Every rack includes two 100 Gb Ethernet top of rack switches and two Ethernet management switches. Users can add a pair of 2U GPU accelerated nodes with AMD CPUs and Nvidia A100 GPUs to boost performance. Spectrum Fusion HCI includes erasure coding for data protection.

Use Cases and Verticals

IBM sees Spectrum HCI as a possible hybrid cloud building block, with the ability to access data from the public cloud or use it as a backup target, migrate workloads across sites or clouds, migrate stateless or S3 workloads from cloud to on-prem using IBM Cloud Satellite and OpenShift, and to clone environments for DevOps using OpenShift.

Target applications for Spectrum Fusion include Cassandra, Kafka, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, Spark, TensorFlow, and SAP Hana. Its target vertical markets will be financial services, industrials, public sector, healthcare, retail, telcos, and service providers.

Evaluator Group Comments

IBM’s decision to sell its x86 server business to Lenovo in 2014 left it without an easy path into hyper-convergence and it ceded that market. Now IBM is looking beyond VM-centric HCI that Dell Technologies, VMware, and Nutanix have made popular. IBM will instead plant its flag in container-based HCI with the help of its Spectrum storage software and Red Hat OpenShift portfolios.

IBM’s container storage HCI strategy puts it in competition with the likes of Pure Storage’s Portworx and NetApp Astra more than with traditional HCI and SDS products. The Fusion launch is a first step but the journey is not complete. The six-node minimum configuration for Fusion HCI makes for an expensive entry point (most HCI products have three-node minimums, and edge HCI appliances can start with one or two). We expect IBM will bring out a three-node Spectrum Fusion HCI before long. Spectrum Fusion HCI may also need to add VMware support to gain traction while IBM waits for the container storage demand to blossom.

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