IBM set to play Symphony

IBM Corp. will begin rolling out application provisioning software it acquired in its May acquisition of Toronto’s Think Dynamics Inc. beginning next month, company officials said.

The software, which will be called Tivoli Intelligent Orchestration, will automatically add and remove servers for applications depending on how heavily they are being used. When it begins shipping at the end of September, Intelligent Orchestration will be the first part of an evolving portfolio – code-named Symphony – of product and service offerings that IBM’s systems, software, and Global Services groups plan to offer customers as a way to more effectively use data centre resources.

IBM is the first major company to come to market with this kind of ability to provision server resources on the fly, said Forrester Research Inc. Research Fellow Richard Fichera. “This is a really important piece of capability for anybody attempting to do virtualized data centres,” he said. “If IBM can truly do what they’re claiming, this raises the bar for other players.”

Using the Intelligent Orchestration software, administrators would, for example, be able to automatically add a new Web server every time a company’s Web site began using 80 per cent of the available resources. A low-end threshold could be set as well, to free up that Web server for another application if resource requirements ever dropped.

To demonstrate this kind of application provisioning in action, IBM has added the Intelligent Orchestration software to the 16 clusters of pSeries servers it is using to run the U.S. Open tennis tournament’s Web site this week in IBM data centres in Raleigh, N.C., Boulder, Colo. and St. Louis.

Though the US Open’s Web site served up 125 million pages during last year’s tournament, some days were much slower than others, according to Ezra Kucharz, the director of advanced media with the United States Tennis Association, which runs the U.S. Open. “Labour Day weekend, we certainly don’t need as much serving and hosting capacity as we do during the rest of the week,” he said, adding that on the busiest days, when hordes of working tennis fans are coming to the site for the latest scores, IBM’s computers can serve three or four times as much traffic as during the slower weekend days.

IBM’s demonstration aims to show how idle servers can be re-provisioned during those slow days to run other applications.

Using Intelligent Orchestration, IBM researchers from the T.J. Watson Research Lab, in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., and the company’s Life Sciences group, in Somers, N.Y., were able to harness idle U.S. Open computers and use them to run two scientific computer simulations of the way proteins fold in living organisms.

The Intelligent Orchestration software is just the first part of the broader Symphony suite of software and services that IBM will begin unveiling in September. Initially, IBM will offer a package of software and services for Web sites, as with the U.S. Open, but it will expand these offerings so that many other types of applications can be dynamically provisioned as well. “We’re working on the standard high-volume applications like customer relationship management and supply chain applications,” said Dev Mukherjee, IBM vice-president of strategy and marketing for eBusiness on Demand.

This process will probably take years, said Forrester’s Fichera. “They need to productize this, package it, prove it works in more and different applications, and then start working through the list of applications that people have trouble managing.”