Silver Bulletin

Who said storage is boring?

Posted by: Rick Norgate

So I have just got back from two days at an IBM storage event in Prague and I wanted to share my initial impressions with you. For those of you who do not know me, I have recently joined Silverstring as Managing Director. My background has always been in technology but with a focus on cloud delivered payroll products. Silverstring’s specialism of data protection, recovery and resilience is a new field for me. So right now I am on a fascinating learning curve while I figure out my Hypervisors from my vSnaps from my Kubernetes.

But enough about me, let’s get back to the IBM event. The reason I was at this event is because IBM is one of our key strategic partners. It’s storage solutions and backup applications are a key underpinning of our Backup-as-a-Service model for many of our larger enterprise customers. Throughout my entire career I have always viewed IBM as this huge beast that is complex, traditional and slow to react. Leaving for the airport I was joking with my wife about how exciting a two day conference on IBM storage was going to be, especially since I was used to the fast moving world of Payroll (PS: Payroll is anything but fast moving).

Day 1 opened with a 1 hour keynote to a packed conference hall of over 800 people. The keynote focused on a number of new announcements that centred around two main concepts: storage being seen as a solution rather than just hardware, and the role that storage solutions play in data security and resilience. Day 2 then built on this with a deeper dive into these topics and an overview of how Redhat supports this.

What do we want? Solutions! When do we want them? Now!

The key message from IBM is that no one wants to talk storage hardware anymore. The reason being that hardware alone has no benefit to the customer and that the industry should be much more customer focused. This is something that absolutely resonates with me, I am a huge fan of customer-centricity and strongly believe the best products and services in any industry are those that are designed with customer needs at the centre. The position from IBM is that it is a combination of hardware and software brought together as customer-centric solutions. It is to this end that IBM are pushing big on using storage for more than just storing your data. One of the big innovations that came from the show was the inclusion of AI and Machine Learning being baked into their storage solutions. This will allow customers to put the data they backup to work and use the new tools to drive big data analytics and insights. The benefit of this is that it allows businesses to understand their data better and use the intelligence gained to make informed businesses decisions. By doing this IBM are turning the conversation with customers away from that of backup and storage hardware into one that has very obvious benefits for consumers.

Please mind the air gap!

The other side of the story that IBM told was around data protection and security. Again IBM want to position storage as much more than just hardware and they see storage as a key defence against cyber crime. With cyber crime becoming more and more frequent from governments to corporations to individuals, the need to protect data is more important than it has ever been. Thus, using storage solutions (such as the cloud and modern tape) to provide an air gap, ensuring that backup data is secure, in the event of any network infection.

In Conclusion

So what were my impressions? The thing that struck me the most was my perception of IBM as this traditional and slow business was blown away. The presentations I saw were energetic, full of confidence and were delivered in a way that shows the team are proud of what they have built. Most importantly of all, the solutions were presented with the customer in mind, no technical jargon was used and the IBM team talked about benefits rather than features. Yes, of course data protection, recovery and resilience is a complex business, but it does not mean we have to talk about it in this way. Talking about customer benefits and putting the customer needs at the heart of any offering is so important in today’s market, it’s time our industry caught up.

Posted by: Rick Norgate on October 30, 2019

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