Thursday, October 10, 2013

Solutions, open platform, commitment drive IBM Power System success

By Rich Ptak

Between the industry chatter about vendors (HP, Oracle) struggling with sagging sales of Linux servers and snide rumors of IBM abandoning some system platforms, the recent announcements from IBM Systems and Technology Group (STG) deliver good news and welcome clarity.  As we commented when IBM NeXtScale was revealed, System x remains alive, well and will be fully supported for some time to come. As for IBM Power Systems, IBM’s plan for it is to duplicate its success with Linux-based zEnterprise mainframe.

When reviewing the IBM Power-Linux strategy in 2012, we said: “IBM’s announcement strikes us as the most well thought out and comprehensive move that we have seen in a long time. It offers benefits to customers, ISVs, Systems Integrators, and IBM channel partners.[1]While prohibited[2] from providing financial specifics, IBM said the in overall market performance of Linux-based IBM Power systems were meeting expectations. Let’s see why they feel so strongly convinced of their continuing success.

The Strategy: Solutions, Open platform and Commitment
The world has changed dramatically since IT built data centers as custom or semi-custom assembly projects based the latest technology and promised ‘speeds, feeds and promised performance’. Today, IT is a business tool that must provide competitive advantage through the speedy delivery of reliable services in a highly variable, evolving user environment. Design, performance and architecture remain important. However time-to-market, responsiveness to business change and the delivery of services at a compelling Return on Investment (ROI), drive today’s decisions.

The strategy for IBM Power Systems is built on three ideas: 1) ‘double-down’ on the delivery of Linux-based next generation applications and solutions, 2) dedication to Open Source systems and tools, 3) continued investment. This ‘complements IBM’s overall platform strategy. Solutions help customers by addressing specific problems and leveraging opportunities inherent in big data, social and mobile computing and security implementation. Investments in AIX and IBM i solutions will continue. Power advances the corporate Open Platform strategy by opening its architecture, delivery of Open and optimized development tools and languages and fostering OpenPOWER Consortium collaborative innovation. Finally, IBM anticipates years (decades) more of selling, enhancement and support of IBM Power Systems. It will invest $1Billion exclusively on Linux on Power Systems over the next decade.

Knowing the customer
We’ve commented before on why we think vendors must actively listen to their customers to fully understand the issues and needs that drive buying decisions. However, that isn’t enough for success. The best vendors also understand what they can uniquely deliver in products and services that contribute to customer success. That means the challenges to their customer’s business and its operation must also be understood and addressed. The identifiable patterns to address the challenges are learned through experience. This plays a major role in the success of solutions-oriented vendors. This holds true even as those vendors focused on workload and technology struggle, even with comparable or, at times, technologically superior products..

The characteristics and requirements of IT infrastructure are changing as businesses transform themselves. Businesses require insight for data-driven decision-making in pursuit of competitive advantage. Such insight is extracted from Big Data with analytics and implemented with appropriately robust security. Businesses also require the operational agility that allows prompt satisfaction of evolving demands. More than ever, the business is dependent upon and demands a flexible, scalable, dynamic IT environment. One optimized for economic efficiency (fast, high ROI) all delivered, accessible and achievable through a simplified end-user experience. 
The Products 
IBM Watson is at the leading edge of applied artificial intelligence. It debuted on TV in 10 racks holding a cluster of ninety IBM Power 750 servers plus I/O, network and cluster controller nodes. Today, the equivalent operates in a single rack as it helps consumers and professionals with retail, financial, insurance, contact center and medical applications. It is adding more all the time.

IBM software for the Power Systems has been updated and improved. There are updates to IBM i 7.1 TR 7, AIX 7.1 TLS3 and 6.1 TL9. PowerHA SystemMirror for AIX added support for active-active HyperSwap with DS8800/ DS8870 and Cluster simulator. Security and compliance updates were made to PowerSC e.g. to automate Power Linux Compliance and improve Trusted Firewall and TNC Patch Management.

IT needs greater flexibility, reduced complexity in acquisition, deployment and operations and faster access to insights and information with numerous platform enhancements, improvements and new solutions. Here is a sampling of some of the most interesting:
  • IBM BLU Acceleration Solution – Power Systems Edition deliver insights with 8 to 25 times faster reporting and analytics at the greatest moment of impact – improved processes make it simple to acquire, deploy and implement.
  • IBM Intelligent Operations Center – Power Systems Edition helps cities make better decisions and optimize resources with advanced analytics, asset management and collaboration tools.
  • PowerVM is improved with better VSCSI redundancy, virtualization redundancy and improved elasticity for Shared Storage Pools.
  • PowerVP – a performance analyzer with real-time, graphical reporting on virtualized workloads, health management and optimization,
  • PowerVC – new advanced management of virtualization that leverages OpenStack to lower costs and speedier response to business needs,
  • Integrated Facility for Linux (Power IFL)  – is a Power-based virtual server option designed to enable clients to exploit the performance, reliability and scale of enterprise-class Power Systems to improve QoS and to reduce the cost of managing their Linux ecosystem,
  • Solution Edition for Service Providers -  enables rapid go to market with a pre-configured Power-based cloud solutions includes setup, delivery and utility-based pricing capabilities,
  • Enterprise Pools and Mobile CoD (Capacity on Demand) – flexible resource allocation allows clients to dynamically adjust and move processor and memory activations within system pools for optimal management and utilization to minimize costs.

 We must also mention IBM’s Statement of Direction of a planned ‘future-proofing’ tactic. Power Enterprise Pools (consisting of Power 795 or POWER7+ 770, 780 systems) will be able to support mixed generations of systems, e.g. able to incrementally add Power8 systems when they become available.

Finally, IBM outlined their program of planned and existing action taken to build a robust ISV ecosystem. These include a worldwide network of Power Systems Linux Centers. A range of solution platforms are available beyond just Power Systems. There are new and improved Flex Systems, PureSystems, etc. The platforms have industry specific capabilities and reference configurations. Enhanced support for the development community comes in the form of tools, open standards, OpenStack solutions, a broad range of solution formats, pricing and support options.

In Summary 
We’ve only touched on the range and variety of Power System offerings and the benefits these bring to the user. We highly recommend that you go to the IBM website for more information.

IBM’s set out to clearly communicate their strategy for Power System success. In addition, they wanted to demonstrate their understanding of market and technology forces driving customer interest.  They described new and enhanced products added to the solutions portfolio. They provided compelling evidence of their dedication to customer, client and partner success. It is our opinion they accomplished all of this. They backed up their statements with documented stories that detail the success already achieved by an assortment of satisfied customers.

IBM is betting its future on ‘solutions-based’, intelligent, integrated systems, a strategy that appears to be working as they roll-out an expanding set of products tightly focused on addressing identifiable, significant widespread problems in the data center, enterprise IT and the market.

[1] IBM launches bid to increase demand for Linux on Power, Ptak, Noel & Associates website, now:
[2] Due to the SEC mandated ‘black out’ period prior to earnings report