Storwize – What is in a Name, Really?

Today IBM is making one of the most significant storage announcements in the last 10 years.  (Steve Duplessie is quoted as saying “…last 20 years.” but announcing that they were basically getting out of the storage business in 2000 by selling their Mylex division was pretty significant.)

Today IBM has made it abundantly clear that they are back in the storage business.  It makes a lot of sense actually.  Servers have been commoditized to about 3% margins and services is a body business (to make more money you need more bodies).  Storage is the only place these days to add significant ‘value’ to the infrastructure eco-system.

Storage software – or as I like to refer to them, storage services allow vendors to add more value to commodity hardware by providing very useful capabilities such as thin provisioning, virtualization, snapshots, replication, and optimization solutions such as real-time compression.

However this story is as much about the naming of the product as it is the product itself.

Let’s rewind a bit.  It is September 1st in Tel-Aviv.  IBM has just completed the Storwize acquisition and we are having our leadership meetings discussing the integration when the new management team informs us that: “You know, we really like the Storwize name a lot.”  “We like the name so much that we decided we want to use it for a totally separate and new product.”

As new employees we two choices:

  1. Complain and argue about how this will confuse the market
  2. Salute the flag and move on

Having branded products and technology before, I didn’t really see this as an issue.  Sales of course didn’t care for it.  My feeling was, that even though the new Storwize V7000 doesn’t support the new IBM Real-time Compression (which now you have it, our new name – not flashy but does describe exactly what we do), it is the most modular storage architecture designed today and I am quite sure, that because the value in this ‘platform’ is really about storage services (software), IBM Real-time Compression could eventually make it on to this platform.  That being said, the amount of noise IBM is going to make regarding the new Storwize will drive the old Storwize sales team to a number of new opportunities.  Sure, we will have to work harder to vet them as the new V7000 is a block device and IBM Real-time Compression is an appliance for NAS today but that is okay.  We will now have exposure to a great deal of customers to tell our story.

After 5 months of trying to name their new product, IBM, at a high level had decided that Storwize IS going to be the new name of the new product which left us to find a new name for our product.  So, we saluted the flag and began, as new people to IBM, to ‘work the process to re-name’ our product in 10 days.  After two days, it was clear why IBM couldn’t name their product.  After dealing with, well lets just say ‘all the blue tape’, naming a product inside IBM is not easy.

While it was always our strategy to have the industry, which means analysts, create a category within storage optimization solutions that was a separate segment than compression called real-time compression.  Wikibon blog started this with the development of CORE – Capacity Optimization Ratio Efficiency.  While a heated discussion, all of the influencers who weighed in and would agree that when you can do compression in real-time it is much different than any post process methodology (and quite frankly better, but that is my bias opinion).

However, being short on time and needing to come up with a name we have ‘branded’ real-time compression, IBM Real-time Compression.  It’s hard for the analysts to now create a category with only one company in it with their product name the name of the category but that is life I guess.  Kinda reminds me of when STK decided to trademark ILM – how’s that working out for them?

Anyway, here we are now, IBM Real-time Compression offering customers up to 80% storage efficiency without performance degradation and totally transparent to all applications, servers, networks, storage and downstream storage processes.  (Sound familiar?)

As for the new Storwize V7000 – I am actually pretty excited to see what IBM will be doing with the new product.  The product is focused at the largest segment of the market, the mid-market, and is a serious ‘out of the shoot’ solution for customers who care about ease of storage management and making the most of their storage.

IBM may not do a lot of outbound product marketing but they do quite a bit of outbound marketing around how CIOs look at the world they have to manage.  Being outside of IBM and hearing messages around Smarter Planet, I never really thought much about it.  Being inside and now talking to CIOs about what Smarter Planet means to them (the digital explosion making it possible for them to be more competitive but having to manage all that storage makes sense).  Then at a storage layer, talking about Storage Efficiency also is how customers are thinking about storage.  All I know is, call it what you want, IBM Real-time Compression is THE most effective technology for allowing customers to do more with their storage footprint than any other storage provider so take your “storage guarantees” and well, go redo your math – you can’t beat real-time compression when it comes to storage efficiency.  (We could call it, “…chateaubriand in a NASA approved, space saving powdered package!” – thanks Steve)

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Steve Kenniston - The Storage Alchemist.