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New IBM Spectrum Accelerate Offers Software Version of XIV

IBM recently introduced its Spectrum Storage family of products. This offering brings more focus and clarity to IBM storage software products within the new world of software-defined storage (SDS). Spectrum is the beginning of a recent commitment by IBM to invest $1 billion in storage software product development. One of the new offerings is Spectrum Accelerate, a software offering that allows you to build your own XIV-like environment using your own Intel-based severs and attached disk drives.

SDS Primer

SDS is a relatively new concept in computing that’s recently been gaining a lot of acceptance. SDS can have a variety of definitions. However, in its broadest definition, it’s the separation of storage hardware and storage software. Major advances in storage technology are being driven by software functionality rather than new hardware innovation. With the software separated from the hardware, these new features can be added at a more rapid pace and often, the software can be used with a heterogeneous mix of back-end physical storage devices. The new Spectrum Storage family helps you build out your SDS environment.

Spectrum Storage Family Overview

The IBM Spectrum Storage family has six initial products and they fall under two major categories:

  1. Storage and Data Management modules that assist with storage deployment, tracking and protection
  2. Infrastructure Optimization modules, which act as the interface between the physical storage elements and servers

The initial Spectrum products are based on existing IBM storage offerings. Following is a list of the available Spectrum modules and the corresponding products from IBM that they’re based on:

Storage and Data Management:

  • IBM Spectrum Control – Virtual Storage Center (VSC), Storage Integration Server for VMware and other tools
  • IBM Spectrum Protect – Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM)
  • IBM Spectrum Archive – Linear Tape File Services (LTFS)

Infrastructure Optimization:

  • IBM Spectrum Scale – General Parallel File System (GPFS)
  • IBM Spectrum Virtualize – SAN Volume Controller (SVC)
  • IBM Spectrum Accelerate – New software version of XIV storage subsystem

If you currently use some of the current IBM storage products, this list will help you navigate through their rebranding under the Spectrum umbrella. IBM Spectrum Accelerate is a completely new SDS offering that lets you create an XIV-like storage subsystem using your own storage devices and Intel-based servers.

A Closer Look at Spectrum Accelerate

The IBM XIV disk storage subsystem is an integrated offering of physical disk drives, Intel-based servers, Infiniband interconnect and IBM XIV software. With Spectrum Accelerate, IBM has packaged the software as a separate offering allowing you to build an XIV-like storage environment using your own Intel-based servers and disk drives. Spectrum Accelerate continues to offer many of the XIV’s unique features including:

  • Advanced data distribution model with no hot spots
  • No need for manual or background optimization of data placement
  • Self healing with fast disk rebuild capability
  • Thin provisioning
  • Incremental snapshots
  • Simple to use management interface

A Spectrum Accelerate instance is built using between 3 and 15 virtual machines (VMs). Each VM can have 6 to 12 physical drives associated with it. The VM and its associated disk drives are called a node. With Spectrum Accelerate, you can start with a smaller configuration than XIV, just three nodes versus the six module starting point for XIV. Spectrum Accelerate instances can interact with XIV systems for remote replication, data migration and consolidated management.

Spectrum Accelerate Requirements

To ensure that your IBM Spectrum Accelerate environment delivers optimal performance, availability and reliability, IBM has established minimum and recommended requirements for each VM:

Minimum VM Requirements (per VM)

  • (4) Dedicated, physical cores
  • (24) GB of physical memory
  • (2) 10 Gb Ethernet ports
  • (6 to 12) Identical disk drives of capacity 1TB, 2 TB, 3 TB or 4TB
  • (1) 500 or 800 GB SSD, which acts as a cache between the nodes memory and physical drives

Recommended VM Requirements (per VM)

  • (4) Dedicated, physical cores
  • (48) GB of physical memory
  • (4 to 8) 10 Gb Ethernet ports
  • (6 to 12) Identical disk drives of capacity 2 TB, 3 TB or 4TB
  • (1) 800 GB SSD, which acts as a cache between the nodes memory and physical drives

Since you’re using standard servers and disk drives, you may be able to build a Spectrum Accelerate environment using your standard server platform, reducing device complexity within your data center. Useable storage for an instance starts at ~8TB using 3 VMs, each with 6 x 1 TB drives. The maximum useable storage for a single instance is ~325 TB using 15 VMs, each with 12 x 4 TB drives. Spectrum Accelerate licensing is based on the total amount of useable TBs deployed under a specific customer ID. The licensed TBs can be distributed across multiple Spectrum Accelerate instances. Licensing can be either perpetual combined with subscription service or monthly, which includes the subscription service.

Comparing Spectrum Accelerate to XIV

A lingering question is when should you use Spectrum Accelerate and when should you use XIV. Here are some advantages for each offering:

Spectrum Accelerate

  • 8 TB useable entry point versus 55 TB for XIV
  • Linear incremental cost per TB from entry configuration to full configuration
  • Flexible licensing


  • Enterprise Tier1 storage
  • Encryption and three-way mirroring functions
  • Higher IOPs and lower latency
  • Infiniband module interconnect

Spectrum Accelerate can be useful when combining on premise and cloud environments. You might have XIV in your data center and then use Spectrum Accelerate to build an XIV-like environment in the cloud. This would allow you to use the common replication tools between the two environments.

Focused Storage Strategy

IBM is positioning and enhancing its storage portfolio to align with the new trend toward SDS. Consolidation of the current IBM storage offerings under the Spectrum banner is a step in this direction and the new Spectrum Accelerate software product demonstrates IBM’s commitment to offering greater customer choice in how this technology is made available and deployed.

Charlie Cler supports customers in a solutions-architect role at Forsythe Technology Inc. He can be reached at

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