IBM stakes its claim in ‘scale-out’ storage for big data

Get more stuff and you need more storage — that rule applies equally to data and the forgotten items piling up in your garage. The era of big data is upon us, as so many technologists proclaim, but the trouble for large companies is that obtaining extra storage space has traditionally meant buying more refrigerator-sized storage arrays — which can run more than a hundred thousand dollars each — for additional petabytes of data.

In addition to the major capital investment required, buying more arrays can actually slow the system down. It’s something like adding more boxcars to a train without adding any locomotives, said Eric Burgener, a director at the market research firm IDC.

“Every time you add another car, you don’t add power, so it runs slower,” Burgener said. “There’s a certain number of storage controllers, and you can’t increase those.”

That’s the legacy of the traditional “scale up” model of storage that’s been around for about 15 years. But an increasingly common alternative — known instead as “scale out” technology — can offer companies a much better deal. This week, IBM (IBM) threw its hat into the ring by announcing a new technology code-named “Elastic Storage” that offers some compelling benefits, including a potential reduction in storage costs by up to 90 percent.

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