IBM Beats Out Cisco For Modular Server Deal
June 18, 2012 Timothy Prickett Morgan
It’s not a particularly large deal as these things go, but IBM has won a head-to-head competition pitting its new PureSystem platform against similar modular systems from Cisco Systems and come out with the sale.
As I explained when the Flex System modular servers were announced back in April, Big Blue is not expecting companies to rip out their existing IT infrastructure and replace it with the new X86 and Power system nodes, the Flex Manager management stack, and integrated switching and storage. But, in some cases, such as in this win against Cisco and its “California” Unified Computing System blade servers (which are not skinny vertical blades but horizontal modular boxes like the Flex System design, all sliding into a chassis), the company is doing just that.
The company in question is Hong Kong-based PCCW Solutions, an IT and business process outsourcing company that is a division of PCCW Group, the big telecom company in Honk Kong. PCCW Solutions has 2,800 techies on its staff who have development centers in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Xian to serve the Chinese market. PCCW developed the trading systems for the Hong Kong stock exchange, a credit card back-end system for the Bank of China, and the smartcard and electronic passport system for Hong Kong, among many other big projects. So they are not exactly lightweights when it comes to systems and technology.
PCCW runs a private and hybrid public-private compute cloud that has a mix of four different operating systems–IBM i, AIX, Windows, and Linux–running on four different server virtualization hypervisors and a mix of Power and X86 servers to run its private and hybrid cloud offerings. The company is setting up a self-service portal called the Enterprise Solutions Superstore to peddle ISV applications on top of its cloud, and is using Flex System compute blocks to replace its hodgepodge iron. (It is not clear whose iron it was.) With the cloud market growing at a 40 percent rate in Hong Kong, PCCW Solutions has to get is systems and systems management act together fast or it will be crushed by managing its cloud.
Specifically, the new building block for PCCW Solutions’ cloud is comprised of a Flex System chassis with one x240 node running the Flex System Manager code (a kind of super hardware management console mixed with Systems Director, Workload Deployer, VMControl, Storwize storage management, and other IBM tools) and another x240 node running IBM’s SmartCloud Entry cloud controller fabric. The compute elements include four p260 Power7-based compute nodes and six x240 compute nodes; these are both two-socket servers. The chassis also links out to an external Storwize V7000 disk array for storage for the nodes, with room to add two more nodes in the future. By the way, both IBM i and AIX are being offered to run applications on those Power7-based nodes. So IBM i made the cut, even if Cisco did not.
The Hong Kong deal follows fast on the heels of one that IBM did with BPTP Limited, a real estate company based in Bangalore, India, which was using a mix of servers from Dell and switches from Cisco, but then IBM proposed a PureSystem setup as part of its plan to upgrade its machines and the company decided to switch. This is precisely the scenario everyone, including IBM, expects, and frankly, this is exactly how Cisco has been selling UCS iron–when the company is ready to upgrade existing systems, it is ready to consider something really different. In this case, BPTP was looking for new infrastructure on which to run its SAP systems, and chose three full-on PureFlex systems with 240 compute nodes and three Storwize V7000 arrays for storage.