XIV goes way of the dinosaurs as IBM nixes fourth-gen storage array

Incoming FlashSystem A9000 with 3D TLC makes it obsolete

IBM is not going to develop a fourth-generation XIV storage array because an upcoming FlashSystem A9000R using 3D flash can be sold for the same cost as disk.

XIV is the highly reliable, Moshe Yanai-designed array, which IBM bought in 2008 for a rumoured $300m. Unusually, the technology used clustered nodes, each using cheap SATA disk drives but provided high-performance data access.

XIV Gen 3 was announced in 2011, and that hardware design is now almost six years old. The product was rebranded as Spectrum Accelerate software-defined storage in February 2015.

With IBM buying Storwize then Texas Memory Systems (TMS) the Big Blue on-premises storage universe seemed centred on four pillars: DS8000 monolithic arrays, XIV enterprise arrays, hybrid flash/disk Storwize mid-range systems and FlashSystem (renamed TMS RamSan product) all-flash arrays for fast-access performance.

With the DS8880F systems providing high-end flash performance and the FlashSystems getting refitted with incoming affordable 3D TLC (3bits/cell) flash then XIV's role in the four-way product lineup is getting squeezed.


IBM mail implying the end of XIV's life. Click image for larger, readable version.

We have seen an internal message from Alistair Symon, IBM VP for XIV and Storwize Development, which says:

There won't be an XIV Gen 4 because there doesn't need to be. The capacity-optimised version of the A9000 in 4Q this year uses 3D TLC flash and will provide the same cost point as an XIV Gen 4 system would have if we had built it with disk. So the capacity-optimised A9000R with 3D TLC flash is XIV Gen 4. When you can sell flash for the same cost as disk why sell disk?

Symon's message also mentioned the Storwize and SVC (SAN Volume Controller) products. "With regard to SVC and V7000 we plan to move to a ROW (read on write) snapshot design but not until mid-2018. I am copying Carlos and Andy for their views on anything we can say about optimising performance of snaps on Storwize and SVC before then."

The Carlos referred to is thought to be Carlos Fuente, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working on Spectrum Virtualize, SVC and Storwize.

We have asked IBM for comment and will update this story when we hear anything back. ®

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