BLOG: IBM Storage Insights or Spectrum Control: Which is Right for Me?

June 4th, 2020 BLOG: IBM Storage Insights or Spectrum Control: Which is Right for Me?
Laura Tuller
Systems Engineer, Storage Solutions


Deciding between IBM Storage Insights and IBM Spectrum Control is a topic I’m often asked to discuss with end users and consultants. I’ve presented this very topic at IBM conferences with Bryan Odom, IBM Global SWAT Technical Pre-Sales team member, and I’ve also recorded a few video blogs that can be found here on the Mainline website. There are four flavors and each one gets you a bit more functionality and flexibility:

  • Storage Insights (SI)
  • Storage Insights Pro (SI Pro)
  • Spectrum Control Standard
  • Spectrum Control Advanced


What is IBM Storage Insights?


The basic Storage Insights (SI) is free to all IBM customers with at least one IBM block storage array under support. Both SI and SI Pro are software as a service (Saas) offerings that deploy in minutes. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering about security and you really don’t need to; the software provides 128 bit in-flight encryption and 256 bit at-rest encryption. Only telemetry/meta data is collected, so your actual data is safe and sound on your own array. If you still have concerns, please reach out to me and I can send you some “light” reading in the form of a 48-page document that covers everything you want to know and more in great detail.

SI is managed and maintained by IBM so you only have to do the minimal care and feeding of the lightweight data collectors. I’d suggest installing at least two for redundancy, or more if you have a large environment.


Making Storage Management Easy with Storage Insights


SI gives you a single pane of glass to monitor your storage environment, view component health, receive best practice alerts, generate reports, and collect logs. The best part? It’s integrated with IBM support. Typically, when you call support they ask you for your model, machine type, and serial number—information that’s almost never at hand. It’s off in a spreadsheet stored on someone’s laptop or you have to go log into the array to see the information. When using SI, the data collector has access to the meta data, so it already knows the basic array information and auto-populates it into the built-in support ticket wizard. From there, you select the severity, a type of log to upload, attach screenshots, and write a description.


IBM Remote Support Access


You can also allow IBM support temporary access to help solve the problem management record (PMR) you just opened. I know, red flags are going off again, but they don’t need to be. Support cannot see your data nor can they make changes to your storage system. Think of it as allowing support to send a request to your Insights instance which will then send specific logs as needed, removing the bottleneck of e-mail requests back and forth and problems uploading logs due to firewall restrictions. This makes time to resolution faster and your life a little easier.

When viewing your instance of SI, you get a visual dashboard so you can gain at-a-glance understanding of your system status.

  • Systems with problems will be either red or golden and bubble to the top of the list, so you can immediately see if there are issues that need your attention.
  • An operations view will also show detailed performance.
  • All graphs can have other metrics selected and can be exported.
  • You can view the component level health of hardware, logical and connectivity.
  • The notification panel shows best practice recommendations for configuration, firmware, capacity, and performance.

With SI supporting IBM block storage arrays, it collects performance data in five-minute samples with a 24-hour retention period, but support can see one year of performance data to help troubleshoot performance issues. Performance metrics are limited to I/O rate, data rate, and response times. Capacity metrics are limited to used capacity, available capacity, total capacity, and compression savings.


The Difference Between SI and SI Pro


I can hear your next question: what do I get that’s different? SI Pro supports select Dell/EMC, NetApp, and Hitachi arrays (with broader support coming soon) for block, file, and object storage. You can create views for applications or departments (great for chargeback), identify unused capacity that can be reclaimed, experience improved tiering analysis, and see the full one year of performance history. Five-minute samples are kept for two weeks, hourly for four weeks, and daily for 52 weeks. You can also create reports from any tabular view and have access to hundreds of performance and capacity metrics along with customizable multi-conditional alerting policies.


How to Get SI Pro


There are a couple of ways to get SI Pro. One option is a subscription-based offering, or you can get SI Pro for Spectrum Control which is included with Virtual Storage Center (VSC), Spectrum Control Advanced, and Spectrum Control Select. It’s also easy to switch between free and Pro because the data collectors stay the same and your performance data will be retained. Want to test drive Pro first? As of this blog’s publication date, you can get a Storage Insights Pro trial at no charge for 90 days to assist with business during COVID-19. Normally it’s a 60-day free trial.


Spectrum Control and Spectrum Control Advanced


What does Spectrum Control have to do with this conversation? It’s the on-premise older sibling of Storage Insights. It is licensed by capacity or SCU and again there are two flavors, Standard and Advanced, both of which have Active Directory/ LDAP integration.

More differentiators from SI:

  • Alert response options (SNMP, Netcool, scripts)
  • Saving reports to a file system
  • SAN fabric/ switch monitoring for both Brocade and Cisco
  • Broader 3rd-party array support
  • REST API support
  • Advanced analytics

Data collection also has more options where you can set samples as low as one minute (though five minutes is considered best practice). The sample is stored for 12 weeks, hourly for 24, and daily for 260! You also have access to Cognos Analytics, the IBM Business Intelligence tool that will help uncover hidden insights about your data. Spectrum Control Advanced lets you provision using service classes and capacity pools with automatic zoning, balance workloads across pools, volume transformation, and rollup reporting.

100% of the customers I’ve sat down with during a roadshow in 2019 are now using one of these “flavors.” (Can you tell I have ice cream on the mind during quarantine?)

More information

Several documents are available on the Mainline website (see links below). There is also a fairly dynamic 3rd-party array support list that I’d be happy to share with you directly. For a demo or additional information, please contact me,, contact your Mainline Representative, or contact us with any questions.

Related Information – Videos

Video – Duration 2:05: IBM Storage Insights

Video – Duration 1:50: IBM Storage Insights Pro


Spectrum Control and Storage Insights Comparison Chart
Security document for Storage Insights – PDF
IBM Storage Insights Getting Started Guide – PDF

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