Organisations are increasingly moving their computing and storage needs to the cloud. The latter is a challenge. Regulators are adding new controls around privacy and data sovereignty. This is one of the reasons why some companies have kept their storage onsite rather than take advantage of the lower prices and greater availability that cloud offers.

That is beginning to change. Companies are no longer looking at cloud for point solutions. They are also moving away from the one-size-fits-all cloud model to a multi-cloud environment. This means that they are selecting speciality clouds for certain applications. They are also selecting different clouds for security, data protection and low latency. This has put significant pressure on storage providers as they seek a greater share of the cloud revenues to offset onsite and local storage.

So far in 2018, IBM has made a number of announcements of new products and released several updates to existing products. It has also continued its shift away from spinning disk to flash storage. Tape, however, has continued to grow as part of IBM’s storage portfolio as organisations realise the need to have an offsite trusted backup.

In short, CIC sees four key ways in which IBM has overhauled its storage strategy to meet the new dynamics of the market.

1.  IBM opens up to mid-sized cloud to support multi-cloud demands

IBM has also begun to position itself across a wider range of businesses. It has moved down into the mid-size cloud market, mainly with its Spectrum Protect product. Helping drive its acceptance is customers wanting to use multi-cloud and cloud operators willing to source the storage solution customers expect.

With hybrid cloud, where companies are moving data from on-premises into the cloud and back again, they want a storage solution that does not require a lot of integration work. Part of that challenge is not just about having the right storage solution: storage needs to be properly architected and each cloud environment differs. IBM is delivering patterns and blueprints for each cloud platform so that customers can deploy and use cloud storage effectively.

2.  Lower costs and greater densities are driving adoption

Another driver has been the lower cost of storage. Flash density has grown markedly which has increased storage density. Flash also means that performance increases meeting customer demands for greater density without compromising on performance.

Increased density is also an imperative for cloud providers. They want to be sure that compression and deduplication help keep their costs down. They are competing in a tight market and want a storage solution that can deliver the best compression numbers for both themselves and their clients’ budgets.

3.  Encryption and data protection inside the box

IBM has also benefitted from regulators delivering new compliance rules, especially around data protection and privacy. It has built in encryption in its storage products. This is more than just a tick box on the purchasing side. Customers need encryption that can be trusted to protect their core assets and intellectual property. For many, this is seen as being more important than data protection of customer data.

Encryption is one thing, but data protection today also has to include cyber security to guard against ransomware and other malware challenges. IBM is now providing malware and ransomware detection inside its Spectrum Protect solution. This will link to IBM’s other security products ensuring that cloud assets are visible to IT Security teams.

4.  APIs meet developers demands and support competitors solutions

Multi-cloud solutions are built on access to Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Developers no longer want to be writing specific code for each possible storage solution. They need APIs that run across multiple storage products and that means storage products from multiple vendors. IBM has invested heavily in its APIs making sure that they address all its products and can also work with storage from its competitors. This appeals to corporate developers and to software vendors that are writing software management tools. It lowers their investment in software and reduces the complexity of supporting storage going forward.

What does all of this mean for IBM’s storage business?

IBM Storage has been building momentum. The company has added a lot of new customers and seen sales of its storage products surge.  Over the last 10 quarters it has seen over 5,000 new customers.  With over 40 new products and updates either delivered or on the 2018 roadmap, IBM should be able to accelerate that growth even faster. This news for its customers, must surely be good.