IBM is enlarging its commitment to using flash memory technology for its products and in support of its clients. On Thursday, Big Blue announced a strategic initiative to improve the use of flash in the enterprise, including a $1 billion investment in R&D and the introduction of a new line of all-flash storage appliances.
The re-writable memory technology can improve the response times of information retrieval in servers or storage from milliseconds to microseconds, and, with no moving parts, is inherently more reliable and energy efficient than conventional hard drives.
For transaction-based processing, such as in banking, trading and telecommunications, IBM said flash systems can deliver as much as 90 percent reductions in time required. For batch processing in enterprise resource planning or business analytics , the reduction can be up to 85 percent, and for energy consumption in data center or cloud computing , as much as 80 percent.
Ambuj Goyal, general manager of Systems Storage at the IBM Systems & Technology Group, said in a statement that flash's economics and performance "are at a point where the technology can have a revolutionary impact on enterprises, especially for transaction-intensive applications."
Companies are increasingly dealing with huge flows of data, from mobile devices, transactional processing, data mining, media files and other sources. Additionally, data centers and workforces are now distributed across geographies, sometimes over thousands of servers, so that storage system delays only add to the ongoing problem of data transmission and coordination.
The new research and development funding is targeted at designing, creating and integrating new flash solutions into the company's servers, middleware and storage products. IBM is also opening a dozen Centers of Competency that will allow clients to test proof-of-concept scenarios using actual data, in order to see if the flash solutions improve performance. Applications that are expected to be demonstrated include credit card processing, stock exchange transactions, manufacturing and order processing systems.
The centers are expected to be located in China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Singapore, South America, U.K., and the U.S., and all are scheduled to be in operation by the end of 2013.
IBM is also announcing its FlashSystem line of all-flash storage products, based on technology from Texas Memory Systems. Last August, IBM bought TMS, a Houston-based developer of high-performance flash memory solutions. At the time of the purchase, IBM said that solid-state technology "is a critical component of our new Smarter Storage approach to the design and deployment of storage infrastructures."
IBM notes that its IBM FlashSystem 820, for instance, can store as much as 24 terabytes, or more than twice the amount of printed information at the Library of Congress, and is 20 times faster than a hard drive. The 820 is the size of a pizza box. The company already offers a variety of all-flash and hybrid, disk/flash solutions in such product lines as the Storwize V7000, System Storage DS8870 and the XIV Storage System.