RealTime IT News

Big Blue Orchestrates New On-Demand Menu

If enterprise networks are truly moving toward an on-demand world where computing capacity is ordered from providers "by the drink," then IBM just launched a fancy new pitcher of IT services to be served up remotely.

Officials at the Armonk, N.Y.-based company call the new range of outsourcing services "flexible support," which it says includes technology and computing systems that automate, manage and support data center functions -- either virtually or in the customer's own data center.

In this case, IBM is calling the new IT service a hybrid IT outsourcing model -- in which IBM remotely manages, automates and supports a customer's multi-platform data center.

The services organize parts of IBM's automation and virtualization technology that it acquired through its purchase of Think Dynamics. The Toronto-based company's software measures and manages computing demand and can help reallocate resources in response.

But it also could include support for smaller projects to help clients with legacy-saddled networks to start deploying service oriented architectures (courtesy of IBM) as part of a coming era of Web Services .

Dev Mukherjee, IBM's vice president for e-business on-demand services, told internetnews.com the hybrid IT outsourcing services are part IBM's corporate strategy of enabling customers to outsource their data center operations to IBM while still retaining ownership of their IT assets and employees.

The flexible support services, Mukherjee added, are aimed at helping customers improve utilization and cost management of their data centers.

"Many customers have multiple silos of equipment within their data center, often with less than 20 percent peak utilization" across some server systems, Mukherjee said. By implementing a server management system, remotely if need be, "customers can bring their data silos together" and utilize more of the resources that often go unused in enterprise networks.

Call it a mix of grid computing services, automation, virtualization, and self-healing diagnostics, delivered from an architecture built on open standards -- designed to harness a network's CPUs in order to wring more returns from a network's sunk IT costs. In the process, IBM is trying to help business customers' IT costs become more variable instead of the usual fixed item on a company's balance sheet.

The services are also based on IBM's Universal Management Infrastructure (UMI).

UMI is based on open architecture standards that gird the process of knitting together disparate back-end systems such as different servers and storage devices, which helps to void the need for developers to write new applications for each separate system. UMI is also one part of a $10 billion commitment that IBM's Chief Executive, Sam Palmisano, has said the company would invest within a decade as part of its commitment to offering computing and services on-demand, which includes major support for Linux and development of autonomic, self-healing systems.

New flexible support offerings include infrastructure management assessment services, Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator software, and Web Server Orchestration, an automated blade server-based Web and application system.

Mukherjee said the service features "sense-and-respond" server and storage provisioning which increases or decreases computing capacity in real time, as demand changes.

The new services are the latest from IBM's expanding range of outsourcing services from its global services division, which accounts for about half of the systems vendors' annual revenues.

The latest services strategy announcement also comes as IBM basks in and Wall Street analysts coo over IBM's fourth quarter results that showed total contract signings were $17.3 billion during the quarter, in which the services division signed 18 deals with value greater than $100 million, and three of which were greater than $1 billion.

One potential new customer of the remote outsourcing services could be JP Morgan Chase , which awarded IBM a landmark $5 billion outsourcing contact in late 2002 that included new on-demand services.

For example, the JP Morgan Chase deal called on IBM's global services division to help the banking conglomerate create a "virtual pool" of computing resources that will be accessed and deployed as needed -- or on-demand. The bank recently agreed to merge with BankOne in a $58 billion deal that would create the second-largest U.S. bank behind Citigroup -- and present an opportunity for systems integration as the two banks align their IT networks.

At the time the outsourcing deal was announced, one analyst dubbed it a "poster child" for how on-demand would be received among enterprise customers with major IT investments. But analysts also questioned whether IBM would, in effect, be stuck shouldering its customers' IT costs over time.

IBM said pricing is determined by the number of processors and the capacity a customer deploys.