IBM challenges Cisco, others with new integrated systems line

IBM's new PureSystems line assembles hardware and software in an integrated package

Anticipating a growing need for larger preconfigured systems, IBM has unveiled a new product line of integrated sets of IBM hardware and software, called PureSystems.

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"We see this as a major new category of systems, one different from appliances and custom solutions," said Marie Wieck, IBM general manager for application and integration middleware.

While claiming to take a unique approach, IBM is challenging others such as Cisco, Oracle and EMC that are all combining software and hardware, and computing, networking and storage (See "Cisco impresses with UCS")

Unlike appliances, which tend to address niche uses, PureSystems packages will have a potentially wide user base, given the general duties they can undertake. And unlike custom packages, they can be deployed relatively quickly, Wieck said. These two packages "pre-integrate the hardware and the software as a single new system family," she said.

IBM's idea behind these packages is that they can cut the amount of time it would take organizations to build and deploy servers and applications. IBM has configured the packages so that they can be deployed and expanded with minimal effort.

Getting an enterprise application up and running in a closely regulated IT environment can take months. Much of the work is specific to matching the technology to the internal environment, such as configuring the system to meet organizational policies and to interact with other internal systems. But IBM managers are convinced that using IBM preconfigured systems will still cut deployment by a third of the time or more, as IBM has done most of the work in getting the internal componentry to work together.

"Things that used to take up to six months to deploy can be done as little as in two weeks," with these packages, Wieck said. They eliminate tasks such as setting up a database or a group of servers as a cluster, or linking an application with the company's personnel directory of possible users.

The first two entries of this new line of systems are designed to meet common needs for most organizations. Wieck expected these two packages could be used across as much as 80 percent of IBM's customer base. One package, PureFlex, provides basic a basic computing infrastructure, including servers, operating systems, virtualization environment and middleware. The pother package, PureApplications, deployed on top of PureFlex, provides an environment of hosting enterprise Java Web applications.

The packages could be used, for instance, to build a public or private cloud, or be used to launch a new internal application. While IBM is selling these systems for use within an organization, the systems also are designed to provide an easy way to transfer workloads to IBM's SmartCloud services. With this connectivity, organizations can transfer excess workload off-site, rather than buy more equipment or wait for computing capacity to be freed from other duties.

PureSystems packages start at about US$100,000 each. The systems use an operating system based on Linux, and can run on either x86 or IBM's own Power processors.

The release of this line of systems is a timely move on IBM's part, said Matt Eastwood, who is the IDC group vice president and general manager for the analyst firm's enterprise platforms group. In the years to come organizations will need more integrated systems like these.

"We believe the market is on the cusp of a fairly significant inflection. Businesses are under pressure to move faster and the traditional silos in many IT departments often slow things down," Eastwood said. "It is also becoming more difficult for IT to get price performance gains out of general purpose systems. Users want to focus on applications and business data, not core infrastructure."

Over time, IBM will craft more packages in the PureSystems that will meet the needs of specific use cases and industries, Wieck said. The company will use its expertise in building IT usage models, which it called Patterns of Expertise, that identify the most appropriate software, hardware and interconnectivity for a specific task.

"We expect this to be just the start of a broad family of technology deployment and innovation," Wieck said.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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