Today, IBM announced its new IBM Spectrum Fusion product, first as a scale-out hardware product, but with a roadmap for a software defined storage (SDS) solution. This new product is billed as a storage solution, but it is much more. It is really a “glue-all” product poised to change the hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) market. Many existing HCI solutions are focused on VMware’s hypervisor and its ecosystem of products to create an internal private cloud with promises of hybrid cloud portability. IBM’s solution is container native with a heavy reliance on Red Hat OpenShift and the open source virtualization tools in the market to provide a bridge between the cloud and on-premises infrastructure, in which many enterprises have invested heavily. IBM’s system provides storage capabilities that serve as a Swiss Army knife, letting you graft almost any storage technology into a single namespace and providing ease of portability for data as well as portability for workloads using Kubernetes.
VMware has its own container and Kubernetes strategy in place with Tanzu, but it will be competing on many fronts as it ventures into a world without Dell to fall back on. VMware’s architecture, while virtualized, is monolithic, and the native scale-out features brought to the market by open source-derived alternatives will make some infrastructure managers take a second look before reupping their existing licensing. The VMware ecosystem currently includes features that are hard to duplicate in the OSS world, but parity is improving and VMware may be forced to compete more vigorously in the near future. This will mark an inflection point for hyperconvergence as enterprise compute transitions to a new cloud-native model, with offerings like Spectrum Fusion helping to accelerate the transition.
Open Source Is Transforming Big Blue To Big Red
IBM’s offering will be welcomed by many with large enterprise deployments, but other vendors like iXsystems with its TrueNAS Scale product are looking to build their market with the appeal of an open source hyperconverged architecture based on containerization and Linux virtualization. IBM’s embrace of OSS will help those companies move the free software movement forward. The danger with releasing an open source product is that it gives a blueprint to competitors on how to build it, and they are encouraged by the licensing to do so. Vendors are forced to compete on their ability to innovate and serve their customers — as they should.
Linux (OSS in general) has always been used to make things work where there was no product one could buy to fill the gap; it also represents a dedicated mindset of innovation and ingenuity. My colleagues and I have joked that Big Blue is becoming Big Red. IBM has had a dominant role in the business technology market for more than a century, but it hasn’t always had a reputation for innovation. Hopefully, Red Hat is spurring a new culture to help IBM stay competitive. If that is the case, then it was $34 billion well spent.