Gauging Market Momentum: IBM PureSystems

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  February 26, 2014

Introducing a new class of data center solutions is typically a stressful business, partly due to the investments required for development and market preparation. But even if everything goes according to plan, the process is fraught with risks of every sort. Have all contributing factors been properly considered and weighed? Are cost/benefit projections realistic and in line with expectations? Will existing customers actually buy the new products? What about new clients—any interest there?

The severity of the stress also tends to mirror product complexity. After all, the more complex or sophisticated a technology tends to be, the smaller the pool of potential customers. But in the case of what analyst firm IDC labels “integrated platform systems” which are sold with pre-integrated packaged software and customized system engineering tools, that stress appears to be more hypochondriacal than justified.

According to IDC’s Q3 2013 Integrated Infrastructure and Platforms Tracker (published in December), integrated platform solutions delivered 68.5% year-over-year (YOY) factory value growth. That would be impressive by any measure, but it is a particularly bright spot in an enterprise IT market that seems stuck in the doldrums. Moreover, some vendors in the category did particularly well. IBM, for example, enjoyed YOY growth of nearly 180%, driving $170.3M in sales during the quarter compared to just $60.9M in Q3 2012.

IBM recently offered its own quarterly update on the various members of its PureSystems family (PureFlex, PureApplication and PureData) that included more specific sales results, two customer examples, roadmap details and comments on how the recently announced sale of its System x business to Lenovo would impact the PureSystem portfolio.

Measuring Momentum – Markets and Customers

As IDC indicated, demand for IBM PureSystems is strong and growing, but how does that shake out in detail? According to the company, since their launch in April 2012, over 10,750 PureSystems solutions have been sold to customers in 117 countries, clearly demonstrating the global impact of the portfolio. But sales are just one measure of PureSystems’ success. Since solutions are sold with pre-integrated software and system tools, they tend to inspire a higher level of participation from IBM’s software partners and require special training for sales personnel.

Accordingly, IBM noted that more than 370 ISV partners have published over 550 systems and applications patterns—solutions designed to improve the deployment, performance, management and replicability of complex business applications and processes on PureSystems. Additionally, over 2,300 PureSystem resellers have been authorized worldwide, and IBM has issued 9,300+ sales and technical certifications to business partners.

The company has also published more than 400 client references to date, an impressive number given the newness of the platform and the reticence many customers have about discussing their IT infrastructures. During the quarterly update, two of these clients joined IBM:

  • Logista is an IT services provider that deploys IBM PureFlex as an IT and cloud services platform. The company chose PureFlex partly due to its rapid scalability characteristics, a key factor in cloud deployments. But the platform’s enhanced capabilities also made it an ideal solution for performance-intensive tasks, including disaster recovery. Finally, PureFlex’s optimized management features have allowed Logista to save time and money when performing repetitive tasks, such as deploying servers in virtual environments.
  • ING is using IBM PureApplication systems in their banking division to implement a new shared and replicated Targeted Operating Model (TOM) to standardize and rationalize the company’s computing environment, and retire unnecessary or outdated solutions among the company’s 3,000+ applications. This includes 220 projects that will be completed by 2015 and 450 recently decommissioned applications. Some 450 applications will be decommissioned in 2015, with another 750 targeted by 2018. The company expects to capture significant savings and improved performance as a result of implementing the TOM environment on IBM PureApplication.

The Lenovo Equation

IBM detailed its roadmap for PureSystem solutions in 2014, including plans to continue development of cloud, cloud-based VDI and big data/analytics solutions. But the company also made a point of discussing how the recently announced sale of IBM’s System x organization to Lenovo would impact the portfolio. In point of fact, while IBM will no longer develop and manufacture System x solutions after the deal is approved, the company fully realizes that many IBM customers will continue to require, purchase, deploy and use x86-based solutions.

That point, in fact, was one of the triggers for determining an appropriate destination for System x products and employees. The company wanted a purchaser that could also act as an innovative, trusted partner that would develop the portfolio and supply solutions, including systems for PureSystems for IBM customers. The success that Lenovo has enjoyed with the IBM PC and Thinkpad assets it purchased in 2004 and the ongoing, close collaboration between the pair since then made the sale of System x to Lenovo a natural, even inevitable event that should please and satisfy IBM customers.

Final Analysis

While often valuable, raw sales figures tend to lack the details and insights necessary to fully evaluate an IT solution’s market success and progress. That is particularly the case in new solutions that customers are still getting to know and understand. In the case of IBM’s PureSystem solutions, the portfolio’s rapidly growing sales in over 100 global markets suggest that customers like what they see and experience from IBM’s integrated platforms.

But the company’s recent quarterly update colored-in those financial figures and helped to demonstrate how the PureSystems cause has also been taken up by IBM’s ISV partner and reseller communities. In a real sense, that may be the most important issue to consider regarding IBM’s PureSystems efforts. As the market and demand for technology becomes increasingly global and diversified, there are few if any vendors who can truly go it alone.

By creating an innovative platform that also contributes to the welfare and well-being of partners ranging from specialty ISVs and resellers to Lenovo, IBM has made PureSystems a solution that is bettering business and lives worldwide.

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