IBM Delivers New Systems for Big Data and Cloud Computing

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.

At InterConnect 2013, IBM unveiled new systems and solutions designed to assist customers in analyzing the volume, velocity, variety, and veracity of big data, while helping managed service providers (MSPs) build private and hybrid clouds to get the most out of social, mobile and other workloads. These include:

  • Additional Power Systems offerings built with Linux and OpenStack to better manage analytics via advanced virtualization and cloud technology. These include the Power Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL), which enables clients to quickly activate capacity for Linux applications without interruption. Each Power IFL is comprised of four processor activations, memory activations and PowerVM license entitlements.
  • The new IBM BLU Acceleration Solution – Power Systems Edition delivers 8x to 25x faster reporting and analytics and up to 10x storage space savings. This solution leverages IBM DB2 software with BLU Acceleration and Power Systems that can dynamically support up to 20TB data warehouse environments.
  • The new IBM Intelligent Operations Center – Power Systems Edition helps cities make better decisions and optimize resource/process performance via advanced analytics, asset management and collaboration tools.
  • The new Power Systems Solution Edition for Service Providers offers SPs a pre-built, pre-installed cloud solution based on OpenStack that also supports IBM’s SmartCloud Entry and PowerVC.
  • The new IBM PowerVP – Virtualization Performance and PowerVC – Virtualization Center helps simplify workload management by providing real-time insight into virtualization performance.

IBM also announced new Storwize, PureSystems, PureFlex, System x and Technical Computing solutions at InterConnect 2013.

The Pitch

IBM is Power-ing unique platform benefits in big data and cloud computing.

Final Analysis

Through the years, computing has gone through a variety of self-described “eras” where specific issues or classes of technology dominate industry development. But how these eras are defined typically reflect the concerns or expertise of those who classify them. Most focus on specific platforms or architectures (mainframe, client/server, PC), types of workloads (transaction processing, Web, mobile) or use cases (corporate, consumer).

What is particularly interesting about the current conjoined era of big data and cloud computing is that it tends to encompass most if not all of these areas. That’s partly because both big data and cloud are primarily infrastructure-driven service plays—meaning that much of their magic happens behind the curtain, away from end user sight and oversight. But at the same time, their quality—alone or together—depends on the ability to come to terms with and effectively manage data of crushing size and complexity.

IBM’s interest here is obvious to anyone with even passing knowledge of the company. For years now, IBM has restructured itself as a leading light in IT infrastructure. This has been accomplished partly by jettisoning largely-unrelated commodity business lines (like its PC and hard disk drive divisions) and partly by putting visionary stakes in the ground well before competitors (such as its 2008 Smarter Planet initiative which postulated the “Internet of Things”).

What does any of this have to do with the IBM offerings announced at Interconnect 2013, particularly the new Power Systems solutions? Actually, quite a few things, both tactical and strategic.

In a time of continuing IT commoditization, it is critical for vendors to refine and evolve their core value propositions. That is doubly important for a company like IBM whose proprietary System z (mainframe) and Power Systems (RISC) platforms provide the underpinnings for many of its customer engagements. The case for System z is as solid as it can be. Despite decades of dreary pronouncements and outright lies by rivals, the IBM mainframe remains the industry’s premiere enterprise transaction platform.

However, the situation with Power is more tenuous and complex. That’s partly because traditional RISC markets and workloads, especially in the general purpose computing applications these offerings once dominated, have been under constant pressure from the successful rise of x86-based systems. Given the continuing evolution of these and highly synergistic companion x86 technologies (like those of VMware, Microsoft and Citrix), this pressure is bound to continue.

Despite these pressures, Power Systems have prospered very well. Once a distant third in RISC/Unix solutions, IBM is now the market’s undisputed sales leader. Moreover, neither Oracle (Sun) nor HP appears capable of mounting a serious, let alone successful, assault on Power. But being the leading light in a market under pressure still contains a risk of being extinguished.

So over the past year or so, in efforts such as the OpenPOWER consortium launched in August and the new solutions announced at Interconnect 2013, IBM has been adroitly positioning Power Systems to capture opportunities in burgeoning big data and cloud computing markets. To accomplish this, the company is exploiting Power’s well known and considerable capabilities in database workloads, analytics and Linux, thus highlighting the platform’s natural affinities for data of maximal volume, velocity, variety and veracity.

That notable cloud/big data players, including Google and NVIDIA have signed on to OpenPOWER reflects the wisdom of IBM’s strategy. But what about the company’s newest Power solutions? To begin with, the Power IFL largely extends a Linux/open source strategy IBM has long leveraged in System z to notable success, and there is every reason to think the same approach will also work for Power. Similarly, creating a Power Edition for BLU Acceleration should both extend and enhance the already considerable value of one of the most remarkable database/analytics solutions to come down the pike in, well, a Blu moon.

For a long time, IBM has believed service providers will play a critical role in furthering the successful spread of big data and private/hybrid cloud. The new Power Systems Solution Edition for Service Providers is the obvious play here, but SPs and MSPs are also likely to be intrigued by both the PowerVP and PowerVC solutions which are designed to help improve data center management efficiencies. Similarly, the Intelligent Operations Center – Power Systems Edition aims to help urban areas at the heart of IBM’s Smarter Cities initiative gain greater insights into and control over key processes and resources.

Overall, we believe there is much to like in these new Power Systems solutions and related offerings. The fact is that IBM is not asking existing or potential clients to make some great leap of faith but, instead, is simply extending the capabilities and use cases of one of its most innovative and impactful technologies. The company certainly hopes to guarantee the success of Power Systems in burgeoning new markets. But by doing so, IBM should also help ensure that its customers enjoy the full benefits of big data and cloud computing .

© 2013 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.