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IBM progresses on the road to ‘on-demand’

May 12, 20043 mins
Data CenterIBM

* IBM’s recent progress toward dream of ‘on-demand’ computing

Can elephants dance? At a recent analyst conference for IBM’s System and Technology Group, it was very clear that IBM is aggressively pushing forward to deliver on its “on demand” strategy – a very complicated dance.

IBM has made a lot of progress on initiatives begun several years ago. It started with new intra-company collaboration between product and service groups, including the Systems and Technology Group, Software Group, and IBM Global Services. As it moves forward with its on-demand strategy, IBM’s announcements today tend to be more multifaceted, including hardware, software, and service components. This is a huge departure from the past, when each group put out its own announcements.

Predictably, IT management is a central area of focus in the on-demand strategy and, according to IBM, is a differentiator for its systems. IBM is looking to strengthen the appeal of its servers and storage products by enhancing system management capabilities, particularly virtualization, at both the hardware and software levels. At the hardware level, IBM is working to embed mainframe-like virtualization technologies across its server product line. For example, micro-partitioning allows customers to consolidate several applications onto a single server in discreet partitions.

At the software level, IBM is pulling together software assets from several of its groups to create its recently announced IBM Virtualization Engine. In the past year, IBM acquired ThinkDynamics, which became the focal point of the orchestration layer for IBM’s on-demand operating environment. Since that time, IBM has extended that technology to other product lines beyond Tivoli, creating a product specifically for the BladeCenter and developing an ecosystem, called OPAL, where third parties can develop additional workflows for the ThinkDynamics products, now named IBM Tivoli Intelligent ThinkDynamics Orchestrator and Tivoli Provisioning Manager.

IBM has announced that it’s now embedding the Tivoli Provisioning Manager into a product called the IBM Virtualization Engine Suite for Systems (VE). This also includes IBM’s Grid Toolkit, Enterprise Workload Manager, IBM Director Multiplatform, the VE Console, and other functions that are integrated and sold as a package.

IBM has also announced the IBM Virtualization Engine Suite for Storage, which includes the TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller, SAN File System and Productivity Center.

The Virtualization Engine for Systems monitors systems, and although it has the potential for automatically provisioning system resources in response to performance degradation, provisioning must be done manually in Release 1. Despite this initial limitation, the potential for creating more automated provisioning of systems in future releases is very promising.

IBM and Cisco announced a broad partnership that combines IBM’s strength in systems with Cisco’s strength in networks. It looks to be a powerful combination.

The intent of this partnership is to position IBM’s On Demand Operating Environment architecture as an integrated complement to Cisco’s Business Ready Data Center initiative. It includes a testing agreement, where both companies will be involved in interoperability testing. IBM is also integrating Cisco’s Intelligent Gigabit Ethernet Switch Module in its BladeCenter.

As an example of the integration of products, IBM’s Enterprise Workload Manager, a component of the IBM Virtualization Engine, communicates with Cisco Content Services Module. There is also storage and network integration, as well as management integration, where Cisco devices can be provisioned by IBM management software.

This partnership is far-reaching, and extends the reach of IBM and Cisco well beyond what each could have achieved on its own.

Although IBM, and the industry at large, is still far away from reaching the goal of on-demand, IBM is making good progress. So for the skeptics out there – perhaps elephants can dance after all.