IBM Unveils Third Leg of On-Demand Play

By Clint Boulton

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IBM Thursday introduced new software to help enterprises more effectively manage their IT budgets, a major new initiative under its on-demand strategy.

The software products cover virtualization technology for storage and grid computing and adds more capacity-on-demand capabilities. IBM will discuss the new offerings Thursday at its annual analyst conference in Palisades, NY, where company executives plan to preach the cost-effectiveness and productivity boosts that a so-called "fuel economy" needs.

The firm, along with rivals Sun, HP, and most recently Computer Associates, is looking to lure businesses to use their existing infrastructure for their computing needs, offering new pricing structures as part of the utility-like offerings. Chief among these is a new delivery option that lets customers acquire pieces their infrastructure for one monthly price.

Stefan Van Overtveldt, Director of Marketing Strategy for IBM WebSphere, said the IT operating environment is becoming more software-centric as opposed to past practices of relying on hardware servers with their various processor architectures to handle tasks. That is where this third leg, software products for the "on-demand operating environment," come into play. Since announcing an on-demand overhaul last November, IBM has addressed its first and second phases, business transformation and utility computing, respectively.

IBM has also added virtualization technology for grid computing in the IBM Server Technology for WebSphere Application Server. Van Overtveldt said this technology lets firms manage business applications running on different servers, with differing priorities, usage patterns and profiles, as a single environment that can adapt to changes like a grid to bolster application performance and resource utilization.

Van Overtveldt provided a scenario for this technology, which will be available in second quarter 2003. Suppose a financial organization's IT infrastructure is geared for online trading and built for peak capacity, but in actuality the platform is underused. But suppose the company wants to take advantage of this unused capacity to run other applications -- such as stock trading, portfolio analysis, and wealth management -- without affecting the online trading applications.

IBM Server Technology for WebSphere Application Server lets the firm run new applications by making all servers available as a single pool of resources and by providing management tools to ensure server capacity is automatically allocated to meet pre-defined service levels. Corresponding IBM Adaptive Server Allocation technology will be offered as part of IBM's autonomic computing initiative to let systems can repair themselves and solve performance problems.

Analysts such as John Madden from Summit Strategies have cited virtualization as a vital cog of on-demand computing in helping customer reduce their IT infrastructure needs.

"IBM has had a need to fill out this whole concept of "on demand" along a series of dimensions, especially virtualization which I would argue is a critical first step," Madden told internetnews.com. "However, keep in mind that these are the first few steps in a race with HP, Sun and others that will take years. Some of the technology is here but it's new, some of the technology is yet to come."

To that end, IBM has also released software for storage virtualization, the IBM TotalStorage Virtualization suite to make managing storage on a network easier for customers who already employ SANs. Though it pools resources from many locations in a network, virtualization provides a single dashboard to all available resources. They allow any server to use or access information on any storage server in a network, boosting utilization.

The suite features a SAN Volume Controller consists of clustered virtualization software, is based on IBM eServer xSeries servers and runs a Linux kernel. It is compliant with the SMI-S standard and supports AIX, Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, and Intel-based servers running Windows. It also has autonomic capabilities such as failover, mirrored cache, auto restart of nodes, non-disruptive upgrades and maintenance. Slated for release this summer, entry level configuration pricing is a shade under $75,000.

Also a part of this suite is the server for customers new to SANs -- the SAN Integration Server. Also due in summer, this is delivered as pre-configured SAN software with IBM SAN Volume Controller, redundant Fibre Channel switches and IBM FAStT600 storage up to 83 terabytes.

In keeping with its capacity-on-demand strategy, IBM is extending Standby Capacity On Demand offerings to blade servers and storage systems. This means customers now can purchase blade or storage systems and turn on additional capacity over a six-month period (up to 14 blade servers in a single chassis or 3.5 terabytes of storage capacity). Previous IBM COD and on/off COD offerings have been offered for enterprise servers. Customers can expect these later this year.

This accompanies IBM's Open Infrastructure Offering (OIO), a new delivery option that lets customers acquire all or part of their infrastructure for one monthly price, allowing them to substitute new blade or storage technologies as needed.

IBM is also offering Web Server Provisioning, as part of IBM's autonomic computing strategy. This allows users to Customers switch or add another server to increase capacity immediately.