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IBM Adds Another Piece To its Symphony

IBM officials, who have spent much of this year telling people how their new On Demand software and services will work for businesses, announced Wednesday where to get started: with a physical assessment.

One of the last software and service components in the infrastructure suite internally dubbed Project Symphony, the "personal trainer" services (as officials describe it), determine where a business network can be improved and readied for deploying an On Demand service.

As IBM has explained, Project Symphony is based in part on IBM's previous automation technology, but also deploys virtualization technology that it acquired through its acquisition of Think Dynamics. The Toronto-based company's software measures and manages computing demand and can help reallocate resources in response.

To date, Project Symphony announcements have revolved around products that improve on server optimization within the company. But for many customers, according to Dev Mukherjee, e-business On Demand vice president, the biggest question has always been, "where do I start?"

"Customers have been asking us since we launched On Demand for working out how they enter, what is the entry point, particularly within the IT infrastructure to On Demand," he said.

The assessment begins with an On Demand workshop, a three- to four-day consulting job by IBM technicians, who scrutinize five key areas of the corporate network: security, operations, and change, services and software management. The fitness report, which costs on average about $20,000, gives customers an idea of the processes they should automate.

Step two involves what IBM calls an autonomic assessment: a six-week software assessment of the processes going on within the customer's network, and which can be automated. The services are based on Tivoli, where the network can be automated dynamically by the network administrator or by using IBM's software to determine business metrics for server optimization.

The infrastructure management assessment is another service provided by IBM that goes beyond the initial assessment and autonomic assessment and lasts roughly three to four weeks. Here, customers are shown how IBM handles their own network of heterogeneous systems (which they say is equipped with 50 percent non-IBM machines).

"This is IBM taking many of the tools and processes that we've developed for our own use, and making them available to help customers do similar things in their own data centers," Mukherjee said.

What makes this offering so compelling, Mukherjee said, when compared with the many other consulting services is the fact that it deals with the entire network, not just one piece of the network pie.

"As part of On Demand, you really need to look across the business, both horizontally and vertically," he said. "What these new services enable us to do is to look at our customer's infrastructure and give them the opportunity to find out how they can really drive that to be an On Demand infrastructure."

The physical assessment piece of codename Project Symphony is one of the last components before the official launch of the whole bundled package, which IBM plans to officially rename and launch at the end of November.

Mukherjee said there are still a couple individual components to launch before that becomes a reality, which will be released in the coming weeks. While he wouldn't go into details, he did say that logically the next step after assessing a network would be services that show how a business can implement those network changes.