IBM juices up On Demand initiative

InfoWorld (U.S. online)

IBM Corp. gave its On Demand computing initiative a B-12 shot on Thursday announcing a handful of virtualization and grid-enabling technologies designed to streamline the infrastructure of corporate IT shops and make it easier to manage.

At a New York analyst briefing, the company rolled out a collection of products that will help corporate IT managers have more capability to both reel in overgrown and better employ underutilized IT resources, which officials believe have been responsible for rising costs in managing systems and preventing growth.

“We think that our customers are overwhelmed by technology that has become too complex and inefficient. But with these announcements, we believe we are helping them to get started in terms of making IT infrastructure more integrated and automated, and also making much of its complexity from the people who need to use it,” said Irving Wladawsky-Berger, general manager of e-business on demand.

IBM officials believe the new offerings address the three requirements for a true On Demand environment which include integration, automation, and virtualization. More importantly, according to company officials, the new products allow corporate administrators to appropriately “map” these capabilities onto their shifting business processes and management needs day to day.

“What we are in the process of doing is transitioning our customers over to On Demand environments, and these products give them a way to get started as well as give them a bit of a road map on how to do that,” said Stefan Van Overtveldt, director of IBM’s WebSphere marketing strategy in Somers, N.Y.

Among the new offerings is IBM’s TotalStorage virtualization family of products that can help administrators take some of the complexity and management of data in a network. Company officials said virtualization technology supplies a single and consolidated view to all critical resources on a network regardless of where the data resides. The new products will make it less expensive for users to house important customer and financial information.

“With the virtualization software users can virtualize their entire storage environment both inside and outside the company. It can turn it into one seamless environment you can access with your applications,” said Van Overtveldt.

According to Brian Truskowski, IBM Storage Software’s general manager, the TotalStorage Virtualization products are comprised of the SAN Volume Controller, SAN Integration Server, the SAN file system known as Storage Tank, and integrated device management technology based on the Bluefin specification.

Available from July, the SAN Volume Controller gives IBM its own storage virtualization technologies. IBM has a reseller relationship with Datacor to provide virtualization capabilities, Truskowski said.

IBM has concentrated on making its storage products complementary to its Tivoli systems management offerings. While the SAN products ship with open interfaces, Truskowski said IBM is looking to better integrate its Tivoli and storage products. “We know our first priority is to see an all blue solution when we have that opportunity,” he said.

IBM also rolled out a WebSphere solution that incorporates grid computing technologies to help virtualize application management. IBM officials claim that for the first time a sophisticated grid virtualization technology will be accessible through IBM’s infrastructure lineup.

Users can more easily manage key applications running on multiple and varied platforms that have a variety of different usage patterns. However, the product will work as a single environment that will be able to adapt automatically to any sudden shift in demand. It features Tivoli ‘s system management capabilities and will be available by the end of June.

Van Overtveldt contends the new WebSphere dynamic allocation features allow administrators to do “true dynamic” allocation of applications in large WebSphere environments. This will allow administrators to set priorities in terms of allocating resources on the fly to important tasks that need them, as well as taking them away from those tasks that do not.

For things like online trading applications with five million users all expecting sub-second transaction times on stock trades, we can access other servers running using only 20 per cent of their capacity to help out during peak periods,” Van Overtveldt said.

IBM also rolled out its Open Infrastructure Offering (OIO), a new delivery option that lets users acquire either all or just part of their infrastructure needs for one price billed monthly. This allows them to more easily swap in and out technologies as they need them, company officials said.

Building on its previously announced “pay-as-you-grow” strategy, IBM rolled out its Standby Capacity On Demand service aimed at blade servers and storage systems. This allows corporate users to buy a server or storage system for significantly less than the total cost and also turn on additional capacity over a six-month period, company officials explained.

Lastly IBM announced Web Server Provisioning, what company officials called one of a new class of automation offerings that can make use of more advanced technologies being developed under IBM’s autonomic computing plan. Users can either switch or add another server in order to increase capacity immediately as a way to better streamline their overall operations or optimize resources not being fully used, company officials said.

The new provisioning capabilities can automatically configure the necessary software and hardware resources in any given environment, and is able to provision a server and balance the load in a matter of minutes.

Separately but at the same analyst briefing, IBM rolled out a WebSphere-based solution with Akamai that company officials said would markedly speed up response time to business opportunities and supply fast global access to Web-based applications.

Called the Akamai Edge Computing SM Powered by WebSphere, the new offering will enable companies to tap into virtualized Internet capacity on a “pay-as-you-go” basis.

IBM officials said the offering is a response to an item on many of its corporate users’ wish lists to have the ability to take advantage of virtual capacity when they need it to meet a fast-moving market opportunity. But many users can’t take advantage of the Internet in order to drive business growth since periodic spikes in traffic – such as a sales promotion that could draw literally millions of users to a Web site in just a few hours – can slow down response.

This offering, however, allows users to head off such network congestion by extending WebSphere to Akamai’s distributed network made up of 15,000 servers that can step in and handle Web traffic and spikes as needed.

IBM has also made improvements to the WebSphere Application Server along with its development tools that will better allow users to build, deploy, and run applications in an On Demand environment. Some of those improvements include one button network deployment, an embedded database technology, and Web services caching capabilities.