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Extending Cyberresilience Capabilities

IBM’s Scott Baker on how IBM’s new FlashSystem storage offerings target ransomware, defend against cyberthreats and streamline storage network management

Managing and maintaining storage networks was never easy, but over the past two years, the responsibilities and challenges that come with the job have multiplied and diversified.

Administrators must provide secure access to networks that extend beyond virtual corporate boundaries to serve an ever-growing work from home user base. Ransomware and other threats to data are constant, with bad actors seemingly running multiple steps ahead in their inscrutable, wearying games. To say that attacks are inevitable may be an overstatement, but it's never been more critical for organizations to prepare for this outcome.

In 2021, a year capped by the discovery of the Log4j vulnerability, it's estimated that cyberattacks on corporate networks increased by 50% over the previous 12 months. Unsurprisingly, the costs related to these attacks are also soaring. According to IBM's annual Cost of a Data Breach report for 2021 (download; registration required), a single business pays on average more than $4 million to deal with a data breach. The study identifies ransomware attacks as the most costly breach type, though only by a slight margin. Meanwhile, remote work was considered a factor in nearly 20% of breaches, with those breaches requiring an additional $1 million to contain. And in environments where at least 50% of the workforce was remote, breaches on average took an additional two months to identify and contain, adding to the damage and cost of what is already a multi-month, multi-million dollar process.

"We're operating in a very digitized world,” says IBM's Scott Baker, CMO, IBM Storage. “All this data is being shared at the extreme edge of business, between knowledge workers, between employees, with partners and more. Add to that the unrelenting demand for businesses to constantly innovate and adopt new technologies to help with innovation. These elements really increase the cyber-related risk for any organization. So, as we engage with our customers, we're looking to help them develop a data protection or cyberresiliency strategy.”

In its efforts to help customers move toward cyberresilience, IBM recently unveiled new, next-generation flash storage offerings: the IBM FlashSystem Cyber Vault and two new ultra-performant enterprise storage array models, the FlashSystem 7300 and FlashSystem 9500. 

FlashSystem and SVC Announcement Details 

Cyber Vault for FlashSystem provides active, real-time and scheduled data monitoring along with a verified and validated point of restores. These capabilities are designed to allow customers to much more quickly detect and recover from ransomware attacks and other cyberthreats. According to IBM, recovery times can be slashed from months to hours through the use of this solution.
 
The two new FlashSystem models—the 7300 and 9500—allow IBM to provide storage arrays for organizations of all sizes. While the initial 5200 offering is positioned as an affordable device to manage entry-level workloads, the new models will, respectively, handle workloads in midrange and enterprise environments, including hybrid cloud platforms.

As Baker notes, FlashSystem devices are designed on a single architecture and share a common operating environment: IBM's Spectrum Virtualize software. Both new systems deliver enterprise-class uptime, feature IBM's FlashCore high-performance drives, and use non-volatile memory access (NVMe) to provide high-speed access to storage media.
 
These solutions, he adds, contribute to "a consistent and secure architecture. Whatever you do at the data center edge, in the core of the data center or in the cloud is exactly the same.” That creates a consistent set of operations in terms of how you store, safeguard, protect and manage the data. “So, on the business side you get a really nice optimization of the IT environment because everything is the same and tailored specifically to the performance or capacity needs of the workload you're serving," Baker adds.
 
In addition, in a recent hardware announcement, IBM released information regarding a new SAN Volume Controller (SVC) model, the SV3. Set for March 4 availability, the SV3 features two 24-core processors running at 2.4 GHz. This model is delivered in a 2U, 19-inch rack-mount enclosure with IBM installation.

While the SVC name stems from the simple fact that it is a combined hardware and software storage virtualization system, Baker believes this title undersells the controller's capabilities.

"The SAN volume controller is basically our FlashSystem 9500 without the disk drives," he says. "You can put it in front of more than 500 different certified existing storage non-IBM arrays, and then repurpose that storage with the same Spectrum Virtualize software running on top of it. You can create great scale for your IT staff; they can manage more of the storage estate than they could if they had to specialize in various vendor products."

Maintaining Flexibility in a Changing Storage Landscape 

Even in an ever-changing storage landscape, IBM's goals remain the same. The company strives to provide a foundation of cohesive solutions that not only fit together from an IBM development perspective, but fit well within customers' disparate storage environments.

"The speed and the performance that are delivered by these new systems, as well as the added capacity, allow you to bring together not only your existing workloads, but begin to build future workloads," says Baker. "The FlashSystem itself delivers cloud architecture on-premises. That's the whole purpose of it and we do that as the physical instantiation of what's behind the Spectrum Virtualize operating environment. So you're able to integrate very easily and consume services as you need them."

Of course, cohesion is present not only in the architecture of IBM solutions, but with the various purchase options available for these offerings.

"From a financial perspective, all of the products that we released in this launch fall underneath our Storage as a Service (SaaS) offering. So, whether you want to consume this on a pay-per-use or if you want to lease it, you can certainly do so. Of course, you can always purchase it outright," Baker says, "but I believe the flexible consumption meets whatever OpEx strategy you're trying to implement."

Looking Ahead

Even with this significant announcement, development is ongoing. Baker says software updates can be expected in the near future.
 
"The benefits we're delivering to the customers in terms of the performance and the capacity of the new arrays will facilitate new releases in Spectrum Virtualize. There will be greater integration with containers and Kubernetes and VMware environments, and changes in how we handle data replication," he says. "Things like that are definitely in our future. I wouldn't say right around the corner, but not too far off, either."
 
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