IBM’s announcement of a storage suite with per Tb pricing is a natural move following the launch of the Spectrum brand last year to sit over its storage portfolio. Back then it looked more like a marketing umbrella for a collection of disparate solutions. Progressive levels of integration have since been added, and offering the ’Spectrum Suite’ as a collectively-priced bundle adds more substance to the proposition. However, buying into IBM’s all-encompassing suite is far from a no-brainer.
First off, per Tb pricing is nothing new in the storage industry; you can get this elsewhere, and experiences of it have been mixed – sometimes it works to your advantage, sometimes it doesn’t – it depends where you’re coming from and where you are headed. Also the ’suite’ model only makes commercial sense if you want enough of the functionality to justify the price. IBM claims it will be worthwhile if clients are interested in two or three of the components, but we’ll have to wait until pricing is announced next month before we can make a judgment on that. Even then, if other vendors’ solutions are place, the switch could be difficult to justify in monetary terms. The transition could be eased by injecting some IBM Financial Services money into a deal to fund a progressive migration, but not all customers will be up for this.
My main concerns, however, are not to do with product capabilities and financial ROI calculations. Decisions are often going to be based on political, integration and support considerations, not to mention an assessment of supplier-related risk. On this last point, the big question for many will be whether or not they want to bet the farm on an IBM suite of products. Big Blue’s staying power in the face of difficult market conditions has been shown to be pretty weak in other areas. With the continued volatility of the storage market (and IBM’s up and down performance within it), an obvious question is whether the company will be tempted to sell out at some point as it did with the x86 server business. Against this background, the Spectrum Suite could make good sense for those who already have a lot of IBM storage management software in place, but others will think carefully before making a decision that will have long-term consequences.