IBM Buys Rembo for Bare-Metal Server and Desktop Provisioning
May 30, 2006 Timothy Prickett Morgan
To fill a gap in its virtualization software lineup for servers and desktops, IBM has acquired Rembo Technology, a small company based in Geneva, Switzerland. Rembo, which was founded in 1999, is shorthand for remote boot, which was the first capability that Rembo’s products had when they were created seven years ago. Today, Rembo has three products.
Auto-Deploy takes stacks of operating system and application software and deploys it to physical or virtual machines, whether they are servers or desktops. Like other system management tools, Auto-Deploy is based on storing images of software stacks on a central server, which have been created to specific machines, and then deploying them as needed. And instead of patching computers, you can patch an image stored on a Rembo server and then re-image a machine in a matter of seconds. This is particularly useful where PCs and servers are in remote locations and the machines are not owned by any specific user and do not contain user-specific files. You can even create a CD or DVD image and redeploy it to a PC or server from that media; no network connection needed. Auto-Deploy 4.0 costs from $20 to $39 per seat, with the lower price being for more than 5,000 seats. Auto-Deploy supports Windows, Linux, and Solaris desktops with Mac OS X under development, while the tool deploys to servers with Windows, Linux, Solaris, and FreeBSD. Rembo has support for IBM’s AIX Unix variant and Silicon Graphics Irix under development.
Because the Rembo tools are really moving around large collections of files, they can obviously also be used to archive software stacks, and that is what Auto-Backup 3.0 does. The tool takes a snapshot of a partition or the entire disk drive on a PC or notebook and makes a copy of it on another partition, another machine, or a CD or DVD drive. The backup software costs the same as the deployment tool.
The software that IBM has acquired also includes Rembo Toolkit 4.0, which is a system management tool that allows system administrators to copy with bare-metal machines, interfacing with their BIOS and setting up disks with partitions so they can have software stacks put on them. The toolkit has a shared repository for storing multiple software images, and can even encrypt data. The toolkit runs on Windows desktop and server variants, Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris (Sparc only), and FreeBSD Unix. It costs from $68 per seat for 50 seats to $24 per seat for 5,000 or more seats.
IBM is buying Rembo for its technology, not its installed base, but it has some high profile customers. For instance, Hewlett-Packard uses the tool to manage 70,000 of its desktops. All told, Rembo had about 800 customers with a total of 900,000 desktops and services under the control of its software.
According to Kevin Leahy, director of virtualization strategy at IBM, Rembo has 16 employees, who will be joining Big Blue after the acquisition is closed sometime before the end of the second quarter. “We had a small gap in terms of functionality, and this small company had what we needed,” he said.
The Rembo tools will be added to IBM’s Tivoli systems management brand, and will be integrated with Tivoli Provisioning Manager, which Leahy says was missing the bare-metal capabilities that the Rembo tools have. IBM’s Director software for server administration will also get hooks into the Rembo tools, and Rembo features will also be incorporated within the Virtualization Engine server virtualization software IBM has created for its own servers (or is based on third-party software like VMware or Xen, but Leahy was unable to comment on how this will be accomplished or when). He said that IBM was thinking about the Rembo tools mostly for X86 and X64 machines, but the tools could be used for System i and System p machines to manage physical and virtual machines on those Power-based platforms.