X Marks IBM’s Virtual Future

IBM has seen the future and it’s deeply rooted in technology from its legacy of mainframes: virtualization.

Citing what it called an unprecedented demand for large scale x86-based virtualization technologies, Big Blue has announced the System x series of scaleable servers.

Essentially a re-branding and extension of IBM’s xSeries, System x includes three high performance, Intel Xeon-based systems designed to better exploit virtualization technologies.

“IBM may be the only major x86 vendor that still does it’s own chip sets, instead of using Intel’s or third parties,” Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT Research, told internetnews.com.

“They’ve incorporated the mainframe reliability and security features they’ve been promoting for years. One of the arguments they’re making is that if a company is going to consolidate to a smaller number of servers, it becomes even more critical that those systems stay up and running. That’s a good selling point for IBM’s X3 architecture.”

IBM said customer interest in virtualization is being driven by IT managers’ desire to get more utilization out of their servers.

“We’re moving away from straight hardware sales to more of a solution sale,” Jay Bretzmann, director of IBM System x, told internetnews.com.

“Consolidation in x86 servers is somewhat different than mainframes, where target utilization is around 95 percent,” noted Bretzmann. “In the x86 world, where it’s more about things like Web serving and online transaction processing, customers are targeting 50 percent utilization with virtualization, which is way up from the eight to 12 percent, one app-per server mentality we’ve seen in the past.”

But Bretzmann said IBM is seeing over 65 percent utilization with its System x. Part of the reason for that is adoption of a new version of IBM’s Consolidation Discovery and Analysis Tool (CDAT), released earlier this year.

Based on IBM’s Virtualization Engine technologies, CDAT is designed to identify hidden servers in the network, untapped utilization and opportunities to virtualize x86 systems. In the past, the CDAT results were collected through a more manual process, where the new version is more automated.

“One of hardest things for IT managers is where to start [with a virtualization project] because most don’t know how many servers they have,” said Bretzmann. “People retire, but sometimes their servers don’t. We’re able to show customers how we can save them money by identifying these untapped resources, and make the process fully automated.”

Pricing for System x servers ranges from $4,999 for the System x3800, to $6,999 for the System x3850, a compact four-processor server for 64-bit and mid-tier software applications; up to $17,499 for the System x3950, which includes flexible partitioning and mission-critical availability for database, ERP and server consolidation.

IBM’s internal research indicates more than half of its x86 customers intend to deploy virtualization technology this year. Currently, IBM said its x86 customers deploy on average over a thousand virtual machines each day.

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