IBM Adds Red Hat Storage Capabilities to its IBM Storage Business Unit Portfolio
by Steven Dickens | October 6, 2022

The News: IBM announced earlier this week that it will add Red Hat storage product roadmaps and Red Hat associate teams to the IBM Storage business unit. Read the full announcement from IBM here.

IBM Adds Red Hat Storage Capabilities to Its IBM Storage Business Unit Portfolio

Analyst Take: The addition by IBM of Red Hat storage capabilities to its portfolio makes sense. IBM and Red Hat have been working closely for many years, going back before IBM’s 2019 acquisition of Red Hat. This announcement makes clear the company is focused on streamlining its overall portfolios by bringing together the teams and integrating products under one roof. This move by IBM accelerates the company’s hybrid cloud storage strategy, while continuing to innovate through open source community.

The primary focus of IBM’s announcement was to announce the shift of the storage technologies from Red Hat OpenShift Data Foundation (ODF) and for them to become the foundation for IBM Spectrum Fusion. This combines IBM and Red Hat’s container storage technologies for data services and helps accelerate IBM’s capabilities in the burgeoning Kubernetes platform market.

Another key part of the announcement was that IBM intends to offer new Ceph solutions to provide customers with a unified and software-defined storage platform with the backing of IBM’s support services.

Why is this Announcement Significant?

Up until now, the technology influence has been one-way, namely, Red Hat has been in the technology driving seat and IBM has been on the receiving end. This dynamic has been most evident in the way that IBM has adapted its software portfolio to work with OpenShift through the structuring of CloudPaks.

I see this as a strategic move. With IBM Storage taking stewardship of Red Hat Ceph Storage and OpenShift Data Foundation, the benefactor will be the IBM Systems Business Unit. The rationale is that IBM Storage will be able to accelerate open-source storage innovation and expand the TAM that it can address.

What is less clear to me is how the Red Hat OpenShift Data Foundation’s existing customers who work with other storage vendors will think about this announcement. The other dynamic here is that IBM has tied the fortunes of its storage portfolio to that of OpenShift going forward. While OpenShift is the fastest growing part of IBM, this is still a bold move by IBM and will be interesting to see how this pans out as IBM Storage customers chose Kubernetes platforms from companies like SUSE and VMware.

IBM is right to highlight this. As customers formulate their hybrid cloud strategies, many will focus on the importance of infrastructure consistency, application agility, IT management and flexible consumption consistency as deciding factors to bridge across on-premises and cloud deployments. What is less clear is whether customers will want the chance to decide on cloud orchestration and software independently of the underlying storage hardware.

IBMs New Open Source Powered Portfolio

With its new open source powered portfolio, IBM is endeavoring to provide a consistent set of storage services whilst continuing to deliver on the key characteristics IBM storage is known for, namely; data resilience, security, and proven performance. IBM is keen to stress the benefits of its software-defined portfolio, which include:

  • The ability to deliver a unified storage experience for all containerized apps running on Red Hat OpenShift. Customers can use IBM Spectrum Fusion to achieve high levels of performance, scale, automation, data protection, and data security for applications running on OpenShift that require block, file, and/or object access to data.
  • With a consistent hybrid cloud experience at scale and with resiliency, IBM Ceph customers will be able to deliver their private and hybrid cloud architectures on IBM’s unified and software-defined storage solution, providing capacity and management features.
  • The portfolio features a single data lakehouse to aggregate and derive intelligence from unstructured data on IBM Spectrum Scale. This allows customers to easily address the challenges that can come with quickly scaling a centralized data approach with a single platform to support data-intensive workloads such as AI/ML, high-performance computing, and others.
  • The portfolio affords customers the ability to build in the cloud, and deploy on-premises with automation. This includes the ability to move developed applications from the cloud to on-premises services, automate the creation of staging environments to test deployment procedures, validate configuration changes, database schema and data updates, and ready package updates to overcome obstacles in production or correct errors before they become a problem that affects business operations.

Preserving Commitment to Red Hat Clients and the Community

Under the agreement between IBM and Red Hat, IBM will assume Premier Sponsorship of the Ceph Foundation, and IBM Ceph and Red Hat OpenShift Data Foundation will remain 100% open source and will continue to follow an upstream-first model. IBM was keen to stress that participation by the Ceph leadership team and other aspects of the open-source project is a key IBM priority. Only time will tell whether this commitment plays out as described, but IBM has a long track record of supporting open source, projects so I don’t doubt this will be successful.

Looking Ahead for IBM and Red Hat

Looking ahead for IBM and Red Hat, this move to ensure that IBM and Red Hat are operating as one on storage certainly delivers synergies from IBM’s Red Hat acquisition. What is less clear is how or whether the rationale of combining the two storage teams will play out for IT organizations as it largely focuses on a holistic bet on IBM Storage, combined with software-defined storage orchestration and management.

IBM intends to complete the transition by January 1, 2023, which will involve the transfer of storage roadmaps and Red Hat employees to the IBM Storage business unit. Following this date, Red Hat OpenShift Platform Plus will continue to include OpenShift Data Foundation, sold by Red Hat and its partners. Additionally, Red Hat OpenStack customers will still be able to buy Red Hat Ceph Storage from Red Hat and its partners. Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat OpenStack customers with existing subscriptions will be able to maintain and grow their storage footprints as needed, with no change in their Red Hat relationship. I look forward to seeing how this will play out for the go-to-market alliances with the likes of HPE and Dell, whom both see IBM Storage as a key competitor

While this certainly elevates the significance and capabilities of IBM Storage and adds vital open source capabilities, I see challenges ahead for existing IBM Storage clients who are making non-OpenShift based decisions for their K8S orchestration layer. We’ll be watching with interest to see how these customers will react, but IBM is certainly to be applauded for this bold statement of intent to capture the hearts, minds, and wallets of hybrid cloud savvy buyers.

Disclosure: Futurum Research is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of Futurum Research as a whole.

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About the Author

Steven Dickens is Vice President of Sales and Business Development and Senior Analyst at Futurum Research. Operating at the crossroads of technology and disruption, Steven engages with the world’s largest technology brands exploring new operating models and how they drive innovation and competitive edge for the enterprise.  Read Full Bio.