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IBM Storage Defender showcases storage strategy shift

IBM is combining its data protection products and working with a new partner to address one of the biggest challenges for customers, marking the start of a new storage strategy.

IBM unveiled a new data protection offering last week, providing an illustration for its refined storage strategy that includes a rebranding and simplification of its storage portfolio.

With expected availability in the second half of 2023, IBM Storage Defender introduces a product without the Spectrum label, a moniker the vendor introduced in 2015 for its storage products and has decided to retire. Storage Defender combines IBM Storage Protect, a data resilience product formerly known as IBM Spectrum Protect; IBM Storage FlashSystem, an all-flash storage platform; and IBM Storage Fusion for cloud-native storage.

Storage Defender also includes a newly formed partnership with Cohesity, integrating its backup and recovery software, DataProtect, into the product. Defender will use AI to monitor events across storage platforms to better detect malicious actors, ransomware and even mistakes.

The new data protection offering marks the beginning of a storage strategy that's aligned with what the vendor described as the three biggest challenges facing customers: hyper data growth, data movement in an increasingly distributed infrastructure and data protection. Part of the strategy is to simplify its storage portfolio by combining technology together for more comprehensive offerings.

Defending storage

Storage Defender, for example, protects both secondary and primary data, which follows a recent trend of adding data protection to primary storage, according to Brent Ellis, an analyst at Forrester Research.

"Having the ability to detect ransomware in production storage grants the ability to use a snapshot manager to bring [operations] back online faster," Ellis said.

Such features can provide a more efficient recovery method as opposed to restoring from backup, but in the event of a cyberattack, they can also limit the blast radius, or the range of infected data, Ellis said.

What [IBM] is doing is adding the data protection layer into what would be the detection and response apparatus.
Christophe BertrandAnalyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

IBM is shifting its data protection strategy to address multiple aspects of ransomware attacks, such as stealing, encrypting or blocking access to data, according to Christophe Bertrand, an analyst at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group. To combat attacks, different parts of IT and different vendors, including data security and storage, have to work as a team.

"What [IBM] is doing is adding the data protection layer into what would be the detection and response apparatus," Bertrand said, referring to the organization's structure for cyber attacks.

Silos still exist between the data protection, primary storage, secondary storage, backup and recovery technology, Bertrand said. Storage Defender attempts to unify management, providing a data security dashboard for security and data protection professionals without losing features associated with traditional backup.

Combining and partnering

IBM Storage Defender integrates IBM's Storage Protect with on-premises and container storage, IBM FlashSystem and Storage Fusion. FlashSystem, an all-flash storage array, is used for primary storage and as a backup target. Using Red Hat OpenShift for container management and deployment, Fusion is for container-native storage. Along with its own technology, IBM added Cohesity's DataProtect to provide data protection for traditional and multi-cloud workloads.

Ellis said the partnership with Cohesity makes sense because its technology complements what IBM already does. IBM has a strong security practice but could benefit from unifying its data protection offerings.

"The current IBM backup solution is three separate products used to manage user environments," Ellis said.

IBM offered customers distinct products based on where the data was being backed up. Spectrum Protect, for example, was for traditional, on-premises backup. Spectrum Protect Plus was for virtual environments and Spectrum Protect Plus Online was for SaaS environments. With Cohesity, IBM will be able to cover all the bases in one management interface, Ellis said.

This combined technology would compete with an offering such as Dell Apex Backup Services where there is a combination of technologies, Ellis said. Apex is a combination of Dell and Druva data protection.

One name to store them all

The Storage Defender unveiling was part of a larger strategy shift for IBM. Earlier this year, IBM integrated Red Hat storage products into its storage portfolio and began offering consumption models under IBM Storage. IBM acquired Red Hat in 2018 for $34 billion.

Like Storage Defender, IBM is combining its storage products to help address what it sees as the biggest IT challenges. For AI, IBM is combining Storage Scale, a scale-out file and object product, with Ceph, an open source software-defined storage, and Elastic Storage System, hybrid arrays with flexible storage and compute and formerly known as IBM Storage Scale System. IBM Storage for Hybrid Cloud is a combination of its software-defined storage, Storage Fusion, and hyperconverged infrastructure, Spectrum Fusion HCI System.

IBM brought Ceph and Rook, Red Hat's storage orchestrator for Kubernetes, into its storage portfolio recently and the vendor is looking to emphasize these products are part of IBM Storage, Ellis said.

"[IBM] is centralizing all its storage arrays and resources in one place, and then separating out the data services as a separate layer on top of storage," he said.

Adam Armstrong is a TechTarget Editorial news writer covering file and block storage hardware and private clouds. He previously worked at

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