IBM Delivers New System x Servers/Solutions

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  September 10, 2104

IBM introduced its new M5 portfolio of x86-based servers via the System x organization. According to the company, the new M5 servers “combine high performance with built-in security, efficiency, and reliability, supporting a wide range of enterprise workloads and computing environments, from infrastructure basics to cloud computing to big data and analytics.”

The M5 solutions leverage Intel’s new Xeon E5-2600 v3 processors, supporting up to 1.5 terabytes of faster, energy-saving TruDDR4 Memory in highly configurable rack and tower servers, blades, dense systems and integrated systems. The new servers include;

  • System x3650 M5 – a versatile 2U, two-socket rack server that can be optimized for big data, analytics and cloud environments;
  • System x3550 M5 – a flexible 1U, two-socket rack server designed for numerous workloads across diverse industries;
  • System x3500 M5 – a high performing, all-in-one 5U, two-socket tower or rack server, designed for business-critical workloads;
  • Flex System x240 M5 – optimized for performance, mainstream virtualization and enterprise applications;
  • NeXtScale nx360 M5 – a half-wide, 1U compute server optimized for density, flexibility and performance;
  • NeXtScale System with Water Cool Technology – a direct water-cooled server optimized for low-cost, energy-efficient performance.

In addition, IBM introduced new workload-focused solutions, including:

  • IBM System x Solution for VMware VSAN, a software-defined storage solution that leverages System x M5 servers and VMware Virtual SAN to simplify VM storage management. It can help lower TC, while delivering high performance and high storage reliability for virtual machines;
  • IBM System x Solution for Microsoft Fast Track DW for SQL Server 2014, a solution that uses M5 technologies for data warehouse workloads using Microsoft SQL Server 2014, delivering results quickly, maximizing application uptime and enabling seamless scalability;
  • IBM System x Solution for Microsoft Exchange 2013, a solution that uses M5 technologies to bring state of the art mail and collaboration capability to the data center on fast, agile and resilient systems.
  • IBM SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure with Atlantis Computing ILIO, a solution designed to help reduce storage costs and enhance user experience in desktop virtualization environments built on Citrix XenDesktop or VMware Horizon View;
  • IBM Flex System Solution for Microsoft Hyper-V, a solution for cloud infrastructures based on IBM Flex System, Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2, Hyper-V virtualization and System Center 2012 R2, yielding reduced operational costs, high reliability and high performance.
  • IBM Flex System Solution for Oracle RAC, a solution that combines fast, agile, and resilient Flex System X6 with Oracle’s database technology to provide a highly scalable and available database solution that delivers results quickly, scales seamlessly as workloads increase, and maximizes application up time.

IBM said that all of the new M5 servers are scheduled to begin shipping to customers this year, except the x3500 M5, which is scheduled to begin shipping in the first quarter of 2015.

The Pitch

IBM launches (and Lenovo gains) a new portfolio of servers and solutions based on Intel’s latest Xeon processors.

Final Analysis

In the context of corporate acquisitions, the continuing evolution of to-be-acquired products and organizations typically receives little attention. That’s a shame, since maintaining or improving the quality of those assets is critical to the essential value of any deal. In fact, if asset quality degrades (in the sense of stale products, dated infrastructure or key employees departing), goodwill is squandered and the acquisition itself can come under threat. These are points worth remembering when we consider IBM’s new M5 servers and the related workload-focused solutions it has added to its System x portfolio.

How do the new offerings look? Very good, overall. The x3650 and x3550 M5 servers are about what you’d expect (rack and tower systems with upgraded CPUs and memory) but they also support extremely flexible storage configurations with different drive sizes and types, and are designed to be optimized for specific workloads, such as big data, analytics and cloud. The new Flex System and NeXtScale solutions add significantly to the capabilities of those already impressive platforms. The new workload-specific solutions are all designed to exploit business opportunities related to IBM partners VMware and Microsoft, and growing demand for virtual desktop infrastructures.

What about the acquisition asset value issue? As has been apparent for nearly a year, IBM is selling the System x organization and products to Lenovo. While the deal received extra Congressional scrutiny, mainly due to concerns related to System x solutions purchased by U.S. military branches, the acquisition was cleared a few weeks ago by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a Federal interagency committee that reviews the security implications of foreign investments in U.S. companies or operations.

What does this have to do with these offerings? Mainly that, though the CFIUS review added months to what might and probably should have been a fairly straightforward deal, IBM didn’t hesitate or stumble in delivering new products and solutions based on Intel’s latest Xeon E5-2600 v3 silicon. Given the significant technical and performance improvements offered by Intel’s new processors, keeping related system and solution development on a forward track is critically important. How it has delivered on its commitments should result in considerable goodwill for IBM.

Continuing System x development is obviously important to Lenovo, as well. Not only has the value of its planned acquisition been maintained and enhanced, but these new solutions should also help the company hit the ground running when the deal finally closes. Over the past decade – since its purchase of IBM’s PC division in 2004 – Lenovo has proven itself to be a shrewd, ambitious IT vendor and competitor. What it will do and accomplish with a fully enterprise-ready portfolio of servers, solutions and services supporting Intel’s latest processors is interesting to consider (or dread, we expect, in the case of some competitors).

In essence, these new System x offerings provide great examples of how knowledgeable vendors can build continuing tactical and strategic value, even with assets that they intend to sell. The results will certainly be beneficial to IBM and Lenovo, but they should also pay substantial dividends to the IBM customers and partners who have invested in System x.

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