IBM ponies up $1B to add flash to more products and speed up big data

IBM (s ibm) said Thursday it would spend $1 billion to support flash storage in more of its products and open 12 facilities worldwide to show enterprises what a difference flash can make. It also unveiled its new FlashSystems line of flash-storage appliances. The efforts could bring higher speeds for the big-data projects enterprises have been getting into, the company said in a statement.

Given how hot the flash storage business has grown in the past year, IBM is smart to do this, although the move could be viewed as a little late in the game. Webscale companies like Facebook (s fb) have opted for flash memory for quick response from flash star Fusion-io (s fio) and others, and flash storage array maker Violin Memory and storage giant EMC (s emc) are coming out with PCI-Express cards.

IBM itself last year bought Texas Memory Systems, which makes flash storage arrays and PCIe cards. At the time it said it would add flash into the PureSystems line of products. Now the company is using the Texas Memory technology for its new FlashSystems line and broadening the flash push to even more products. As time passes, the price of storing with flash approaches that of storage on hard disk drives. That means IBM might find more success now than it would have if it had made its $1 billion flash bet, say, a year ago.

It’s become standard operating procedure for IBM to back hot “new” technologies by writing a big check — and an accompanying press release. It put $1 billion behind Linux in the early 2000s, for example, and in 2007 it said it would make $1 billion available to help IT become more energy-efficient. With $3.8 billion in net income in the third quarter of last year, IBM is just the kind of company that can and does make this sort of big bet. This bet, like the Linux investment before it, could pay off handsomely.