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IBM integrates Red Hat storage for hybrid cloud

IBM storage has integrated Red Hat OpenShift Data Foundation and Ceph into its new hybrid cloud data storage offering. Analysts said the move is good for both vendors.

IBM is integrating two Red Hat storage products into its data storage portfolio to deliver a more unified hybrid cloud experience.

IBM acquired Red Hat in October 2018, and both companies continued to operate as separate entities, until now. IBM will embed Red Hat OpenShift Data Foundation (ODF), persistent software-defined storage (SDS) for containers, into its Spectrum Fusion offering. It will rebrand Red Hat Ceph, an open source massively scalable file, object and block SDS platform, as IBM Ceph. Both products will be part of IBM's new hybrid cloud data storage offering.

"When looking at IBM systems and what Red Hat is trying to do with storage, there is a natural need to combine the two," said Ashish Nadkarni, group vice president and general manager of infrastructure systems, platforms and technologies at IDC.

Storage is often delivered as a complete system, but Red Hat presented storage differently, in cloud-native and SDS, massively scalable forms, and struggled to get its message out. IBM packaged storage in more traditional array and as-a-service forms, Nadkarni said. By combining technologies under one brand, IBM can deliver storage using Red Hat's SDS portfolio with IBM's hardware, he said.

Quelling fears

Customers and the open source community have expressed concerns about what IBM would do with Red Hat since the acquisition, given the cultural differences between the two companies, according to Dave Raffo, an analyst at Evaluator Group. Several vendors use Red Hat, including those that compete with IBM. He said the situation is similar to the concerns that arose around how Dell might use or limit VMware after it acquired the company as part of its $67 billion purchase of EMC in 2015 -- concerns that didn't pan out.

"This isn't like IBM is taking over OpenShift," Raffo said, referring to the open source container application software used by developers.

Red Hat storage products will remain open source and community developed first, according to Brent Compton, senior director at Red Hat Storage.

IBM taking over Ceph creates a separation between Ceph and Linux, Nadkarni said. Red Hat can focus on the Linux Foundation and IBM can take care of Ceph.

Storage and data services are what users want, and that is what is being offered.
Ashish NadkarniGroup vice president, IDC

IBM isn't tightening its grip on Red Hat; it is taking one aspect, storage, that Red Hat had not taken to the next level, Nadkarni said. Now, instead of dealing with Red Hat on the front end and IBM on the back end, customers will interact with only a single vendor.

"There isn't concern here, because storage and data services are what users want, and that is what is being offered," Nadkarni said.

Storage under one banner

Red Hat's storage business and all employees associated with the products, will be transferred to IBM Storage. IBM will maintain customer continuity so that if customers bought ODF or Ceph products from Red Hat, they will continue to do so, according to Red Hat's Compton.

ODF will become the foundation of IBM Spectrum Fusion, which was launched in 2021 and built for container-native applications. It will give customers a consistent set of Kubernetes native storage interfaces, regardless of whether OpenShift is deployed at the core, cloud or edge. ODF and Fusion have been engineered to interoperate, he said.

With Ceph, IBM will take over the open source file, block and object storage product to add features and capabilities beyond supporting OpenShift and OpenStack to include data centers and hyperscalers, Compton said.

Raffo said IBM has a strong presence in storage from a developer and sales perspective. He said IBM's main storage is still its arrays, but adding to the types of storage it can offer puts the vendor in a better position against competitors such as Dell.

IBM hybrid cloud data storage
IBM and Red Hat combine storage for a unified hybrid cloud data storage offering.

Simplifying storage

Scott Baker, CMO and vice president of IBM's hybrid cloud portfolio, said the decision to move Ceph and ODF under IBM connects on-premises storage to cloud storage with a consistent set of data services and operational capabilities.

IBM's focus on hybrid cloud is similar to what competitors are doing around adding data services, consistent application and data storage from on-prem to the cloud such as Pure Storage's 2020 acquisition of PortWorx, Veeam's 2020 acquisition of Kasten and NetApp's Project Astra for Kubernetes cloud services, Nadkarni said. But IBM doesn't need another partner or acquisition to move forward.

"Red Hat delivers value-added services that sit on top of the IBM systems' portfolio," Nadkarni said. "They don't have to reinvent the wheel."

Instead of going from one vendor to the next for hybrid cloud storage, customers will have to go to only a single vendor -- IBM.

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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