How Spectrum Control adds value to IBM EasyTier

A question that often comes up from customers is “How does the tiering in Spectrum Control differ from what is available in EasyTier as part of SVC/Storwize?”  This is a valid question which merits a detailed answer. Before getting into the specifics of EasyTier let us get some terminology out of the way.  We all agree that IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC) or Storwize will act as a storage hypervisor and will allow you to virtualize your existing legacy storage whether it be from EMC or HDS or Oracle.

SVC and IO groups

In the above diagram, legacy EMC or HDS storage shown as DISK Subsystem will have disks (spinning HDD and NAND flash based SSD) and RAID controllers, the disk subsystem exposes SCSI LUNs to IBM SVC.  SVC views the world in terms of managed disks (mdisk) and groups of mdisks constitute a storage pool.  These mdisks in turn can be divided into “extents” and these extents can be combined to create virtual volumes which are each assigned a logical unit number (LUN).  Your host application whether it be DB2 or Oracle or SAP sees only these virtual volumes exposed by IBM SVC – it doesn’t know nor should it care about the internal workings of SVC.


As a storage administrator you decide to derive the benefits of EasyTier.  You may choose to create a “multi-tier storage pool” comprising HDD mdisks and SSD mdisks and enable EasyTier on it.  EasyTier will monitor the I/O and latency on back-end extents of all volumes within this pool.  It will dynamically migrate “hot” extents to a faster disk tier within the pool, “cold” extents will be moved from faster tier mdisks to slower tier mdisks.  In other words EasyTier is doing sub-LUN level optimization within the boundaries of a storage pool for workloads that are not cache-friendly.

Spectrum Control adds further value to EasyTier in the following ways:

  • Enabling optimization of entire volumes across the boundaries of storage pools giving you the added flexibility to migrate a “hot volume” across storage pools
  • Balancing workloads across multiple pools to help you avoid hotspots and bottlenecks
  • Take corrective action in case of overloaded pools (pools which say may not have enough SSD capacity in a pool configuration)
  • Providing visibility into the type of disks (near-line, SAS, SSD) that constitute the storage pool and helps you understand how volumes are residing within different disk tiers.

If you have Spectrum Control in-house try this all out for yourself, if you don’t and want to experiment with the SaaS equivalent namely Spectrum Control Storage Insights check out the blog post from my colleague Jenny Shaw.  With a newly introduced entry price of $250 dollars per month for the first 50 terabytes of usable storage, you can’t go wrong giving Spectrum Control Storage Insights a test drive.






March 2016: Introducing IBM Spectrum Control v5.2.9

IBM Spectrum Control is Storage Resource Management (SRM) software which offers a “manager of managers”, a single pane of glass to monitor and manage multi-vendor storage (block, file and now object) across your data center.

Previously Version 5.2.8 introduced a slew of exciting developments:

  • Support for object storage managed by IBM Spectrum Scale (in addition to supporting block and file storage)
  • Reduced reliance on Cognos databases for those customers who may prefer to view performance data in the Spectrum Control dashboard
  • The ability to generate and receive alerts on every single performance metric that you see in the Spectrum Control GUI, actionable alerts via “multi-condition alerting”
  • The ability to predict when a project will run out of storage capacity via a zero-capacity column in the GUI.
  • For customers of Spectrum Scale (previously GPFS) we introduced the ability to monitor performance (in addition to monitoring capacity and connectivity data).
  • For customers of tier 0 storage like the IBM FlashSystem 840 and 900 we introduced capacity monitoring and planning. For customers using Cisco Fibre channel switches in the SAN we introduced support for enhanced zoning.

Reclamation using Spectrum Control

Version 5.2.9 released in Feb 2016, adds to this rolling cadence of innovation by introducing valuable new functionality:

  • “Storage reclamation” accommodates the real world where a storage team might not always be informed by an application support team when an application is decommissioned and no longer needs relevant storage volumes. The ability to identify “orphaned storage” is now available in Spectrum Control Advanced,  this feature relies on sophisticated analytics to help your storage team identify waste in your environment. In an era of decreasing IT budgets, ever expanding data center costs (floor tile, power, cooling, mgmt.) the ability to do more with what you already have is a powerful way of lowering your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
  • Port naming more in sync with 3rd party management tools like Brocade Network Advisor.
  • Security updates for the Java specific SLOTH vulnerability which might impact CIMOM attached devices like Fibre Channel SAN switches or 3rd party (non-IBM) storage.

This is only the beginning for IBM Spectrum Control.  Stay tuned for exciting new developments to come.