Where’s the IBM-Based IBM i Cloud Offering?
October 25, 2011 Alex Woodie
It was with great fanfare earlier this month that IBM unveiled its updated Power Systems hardware and software lineup. Updated servers with better memory, I/O, and networking connections, along with a Technology Refresh of the IBM i OS and supporting software cast gave IBM i customers a lot to chew on. And there was even a new Power Systems-based cloud solution unveiled. Could this finally be the AS/400-based cloud everybody’s been waiting for?
Alas, no. The great white hope from Big Blue remains just that: all hope and no reality. Dig a little deeper into IBM’s October 12 cloud announcement for the new “Starter Kit for Cloud on Power,” and one’s suspicions are confirmed: it only runs those “other” Power System OSes: AIX and Linux.
The description IBM gives for its SmartCloud Foundation sounds like it could pertain to IBM i as easily as it could AIX or Linux. It says the SmartCloud Foundation portfolio “is designed to help both entry-level firms and more sophisticated clients quickly adopt private clouds from scratch or transform their current virtualized systems into highly efficient cloud infrastructures.”
There’s no shortage of third-party cloud providers out there, running their customers’ clouds on IBM i servers. Today. As in, right now.
According to presentations that IBM i chief architect Steve Will gave at the spring COMMON conference in Minneapolis, the ranks of IBM i-based infrastructure as a service (IAAS) providers include Datanational, First National Technology Solutions, Logicalis, Mainline Information Systems, mindSHIFT Technologies, NSPI, and Symmetry Corp.. And there are more than 90 ISVs currently offering their applications via cloud service, according to Will.
IBM i 7.1 has all kinds of cloud-enabling virtualization technology in it, such as dynamic logical partitioning (LPAR) and virtual I/O (VIOS). While Will says more cloud-enabling technology is coming to the platform (such as the capability to move and clone OS images, and new hibernation features), the fact is there is already enough cloud “stuff” in the OS to make it a bullet-proof cloud platform for all types of workloads that IBM i is already really really good at running.
So why doesn’t IBM package this all together with marketing and branding and certifications and the like, and create an IBM-based IBM i cloud? And not for running backups or development environments, but for running real production workloads.
The argument that IBM doesn’t want to cannibalize its own hardware sales doesn’t hold water, because it already offers an zEnterprise Starter Edition for Cloud that features a mainframe cloud.
The other argument that IBM Power Systems executives have made for why IBM i is the only IBM platform without its own cloud is that IBM i customers are not asking for a production cloud. That holds more water–but only if you assume that there is no more growth to be wrested from this old platform, and that it’s best to make any big, expensive bets on the future of IT on more secure and acceptable footing (like the mainframe, apparently).
But remember: There was no demand for iPods or iPhones before Steve Jobs launched those products. Sometimes, it pays to go out on a limb and create something that nobody has seen before. It’s called being visionary. Like the iCloud–which of course is an Apple product.