RealTime IT News

IBM: Intel, Linux or Unix -- Virtually Yours

IBM Tuesday moved to bolster its utility computing offerings with new on-demand services that let customers draw from its three other server lines.

Big Blue began offering virtual server capacity on its zSeries mainframes in July 2002, but to add breadth to its on-demand strategy the Armonk, N.Y.-based systems vendor has extended that capability to its remaining three eServer platforms, the Intel-based xSeries, Unix-based pSeries and Linux, oriented iSeries systems.

The systems will be hosted and users will pay for the power and capacity they require akin to the way homeowners and renters draw power from the electric company. While this is not novel in itself, companies such as Veritas, Computer Associates, Sun Microsystems and HP have leapt into the fray, and now IBM is offering these services on Intel, Linux and Unix lines, which none of the other vendors can claim.

IBM argues that these "virtual server services" not only offer more choices than rival vendors offer, but can help businesses save as much as 30 percent on costs by having them hosted as opposed to setting them up and running them in-house. Users can run single or multiple applications or services within the virtual machine.

While many companies have the large, physical boxes on site, customers who choose IBM's virtual services can tap the computing power remotely, from IBM-hosted datacenters. They don't need to worry about having a trained systems administrator around to fix problems as they arise or conduct maintenance because IBM's systems do that from afar. Virtual server solutions are deployed from an IBM Service Delivery Center and managed by IBM Global Services.

Mike Riegel, manager with IBM's E-business hosting unit, said traditional infrastructure use involved the design of a new application around which hardware and software would be configured for peak loads. However, Riegel, told internetnews.com, often times only 15 to 20 percent of the system was used, resulting in large capital outlay. With virtual server services, an application may be deployed online and designed for exactly how much utilization there will be.

IDC Senior Analyst David Tapper said the virtual server services are a compelling offering from IBM, noting that no one else who has staked a claim to the utility computing trend has anything that resembles it yet.

"What this is doing is expanding the operating environments on which customers can deploy applications," Tapper told internetnews.com. "No one's going to care about the hardware 12 to 24 months out. They want to know 'can I put an application on it and run it?'"

Tapper said his firm conducted research about utility computing services in which the average of those IT officials surveyed said they expected to save about 28 percent on costs from using such services as opposed to running and managing hardware on site -- putting IBM's claim to 15 to 30 percent of IT savings right in the thick of meeting customers' expectations.

"IBM is clearly hitting the right buttons," Tapper said. "The biggest costs for IT environments are in real estate and management. This saves labor costs, the scales of efficiency are greater and administrators are not required to have the skill sets to manage these virtual systems. IBM believes the concept of the next generation of IT coming from a services provider."

IBM's Riegel said IBM's next logical step, now that the final virtual infrastructure layer has been completed is to make the offering available through application partners in the coming months. This, he said, will serve as the foundation for the company's move to business process outsourcing.

Customers will be charged a one-time setup fee, followed by variable monthly recurring charges for the computing capacity that is used.

In related news, IBM has tapped VMware ESX Server to be the platform for its new Virtual xSeries managed hosted offering.

With it, customers deploy single or multiple applications or services within a VMware virtual machine running on an xSeries server.