Volume 21, Number 13 -- April 2, 2012

IBM's Next Generation Platform Prepped For Launch

Published: April 2, 2012

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

What IBM has been calling its "Next Generation Platform" internally and when talking to business partners that have been briefed in the past several weeks, and what it is calling "expert integrated systems" in its promotions appear to be a warm up for the launch event set for April 11. And it looks very similar in concept to the Flex Platform I caught wind of and told you about back in February.

There will be some bigwigs at IBM handling the NGP launch, which will take place in a webcast at 2 p.m. Eastern on April 11:

I am not sure what IBM means by "a new breed of systems with integrated expertise" that "leverage built-in expertise, integration by design, and a simplified overall experience to fundamentally change the economics of IT." But that is what the promise is for these NGP machines.

What I can tell you is that Bob Picciano, general manager for software sales at Software Group will be participating in the launch, and so will Jim Stallings, general manager of global markets for Systems and Technology Group (and the top server exec inside of IBM). David Mitchell, chief technology officer of the Teamcenter PLM software division of German industrial giant Siemens and presumably a beta customer of the NGP systems, will also be at the launch.

"We're all interacting with customers every day, and they are telling us that one of their concerns about information technology is the amount of labor it utilizes," explains Steve Mills, general manager of Systems and Software Group at IBM, in this YouTube video preview of the announcement. "It takes a lot of people, to understand it, configure systems, set them up, manage them, maintain them, the cost of changing them, and so on. So they always say to us: 'There's got to be a better way.'"

This NGP box is coming out of IBM's Raleigh, North Carolina, facilities and its design is apparently being spearheaded by Steve Hunter, who was named an IBM Fellow last year and who has worked for IBM for 27 years.

Last fall, Hunter gave a presentation at North Carolina State University, where he is an an adjunct professor in computer science, about next-generation systems, basically outing the name of the project, but probably not the name of the final product.

Hunter got his B.S. in electrical engineering and computer science from Auburn University in 1984, and started working at IBM's Networking Division (when it still had one) right after that. He went on to get an M.S. degree from NC State and then a PhD from Duke University. Hunter started out wiring circuit boards, and then wrote diagnostic code, did circuit design, then got into hardware design and system architecture. In 1998, Hunter joined IBM's System x server division (it wasn't called that then, of course) and contributed to the EXA chipset design derived from IBM's acquisition of Sequent Computer as well as to the InfiniBand switch fabric. He was one of the designers of IBM's BladeCenter blade server and was in charge of networking for that platform, helped design RAS features into the System x product line, and also led IBM's acquisition of appliance maker DataPower in 2005. In 2007, Hunter moved from Systems and Technology Group to IBM Research, where he was chief systems architect for next generation systems, and recently he returned to what is now Software and Systems Group to be the strategy lead for the Next Generation Platform.

The word on the street from one source who is familiar with IBM's plans with the NGP system is that it will have X86 and Power server nodes as well as storage nodes and integrated switching--much as the BladeCenter does today. But the secret sauce in the machine will be the management software, which will apparently make it manage itself to a large degree. Another source said that the machine will be using a variant of the Storwize V7000 storage server software and some Blade Network integrated switches plus IBM's Systems Director Management Console management tool. There is some rumor that all of these compute and storage nodes will hang off a common bus inside the NGP machine so all main memory, flash memory, and disk storage is available to all nodes. The system will eventually support PowerVM and its Virtual I/O Server variant on Power-based nodes and VMware's ESXi hypervisor and Red Hat's KVM hypervisor on the X86 nodes.

In essence, this NGP thing is a baby version of the "system of systems" mashup that IBM created with the blade-extended System zEnterprise 196 mainframes two years ago. But it looks like this time the server nodes are peers, not Power and X86 playing second fiddle to the mainframe.


Flex Platform: An IBM System That Goes With The Tech Flow

Big Blue's Software Gurus Rethink Systems

IBM Taps Software Exec For Power Systems Marketing

I, Cloud-i-us

Q&A With Power Systems Top Brass, Part One

Q&A With Power Systems Top Brass, Part Two

IBM Lays Out Plans for Future Growth and Profits

IBM Puts Power Systems and System z Server Under One Manager

IBM Reorganization Tucks Systems Under Software

Palmisano Says IBM Will Double Up Profits By 2015

Bye Bye System p and i, Hello Power Systems

Why Blade Servers Still Don't Cut It, and How They Might

Why Do Rack Servers Persist When Blade Servers Are Better?

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