September 23, 2013 Dan Burger
IBM introduced the PureSystems in April 2012. It was a big deal and it still is. IBM is certain this is the system to converge all systems, with infrastructure in a box–PureFlex–as the solution to the huge business knot caused by IT redundancies. Instead of each platform requiring its own infrastructure, this is one infrastructure for all and all for one. In the past year and a half, the successes have mostly piled up on the X86 side as a server consolidation play, but IBM i shops are in this game, too.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say IBM i shops are ready for PureSystems deployments in big numbers. That’s not close to the truth. But maybe IBM needs to do more to get the message out about why this is a good move for the i advocates. One step in that direction was bringing Jeff Howard, vice president for IBM PureFlex marketing, to the Avnet-IBM Executive Directions conference last month. As head of PureFlex marketing, Howard knows better than anyone the strategy for selling IBM’s platform of the future. His audience, business partners in the Avnet reseller channel, is expected to follow through with the marketing plan. Avnet is one of IBM’s largest channel partners, so there are high expectations for this group.
Avnet’s partners are also a pack of IBM i advocates. Not 100 percent, through and through, i centric, but a great many of them have strong bonds of loyalty to the platform.
Howard knows this well. His early career at IBM connects him to the AS/400 and its predecessors. And just prior to leading the marketing efforts for PureFlex, he was in a similar role for the Power Systems brand.
He didn’t have a lot to say about the PureFlex solution for IBM i, but he acknowledged the size and importance of the Avnet IBM i customer base and noted the IBM i shops that still have Power5 and Power6 should be good prospects for PureFlex based on the fact they haven’t recently purchased Power7 boxes and that all (or at least 99 percent) of the i shops have that box surrounded by X86 servers.
PureFlex, if you don’t already know, is designed to integrate multiple environments, including IBM i on Power and Windows on X86 being the obvious ones for IBM midrange shops, inside of a common hardware infrastructure that includes compute, storage, networking, virtualization, and systems management. It takes what BladeCenter started, improves upon it, and broadens the scope to include all infrastructure, with the cloud being part of the picture. The main point of this is to relieve companies from the infrastructure building process, which allows them to focus on applications, which can be run on the platform that makes the most sense be that IBM i, AIX, Linux, or Windows. And instead of building infrastructure for each of those platforms, it’s set up once and serves all platforms.
It’s easy to see how a company could increase efficiencies and reduce costs by having a single infrastructure. You can also see how cooperation among IT groups that aren’t known for their mutual admiration of one another might spark a few fires.
Howard also added some IBM i flavor to his presentation by noting that in July a new Power node for the PureFlex system, the p260+, was introduced for small IBM environments with software that fits the P05 licensing tier. Prior to the p260+, one of the complaints about the original PureFlex configuration was that it was built for the large user group customers. So, this was a step in the right direction for 80 to 90 percent of IBM i shops.
A big chunk of the enterprise class IBM i customers bought Power7 and Power7+ servers since the PureFlex came on the scene. To a lesser degree, the small to midsize shops have made their upgrades to Power7 and 7+ as well. Those with new iron may be sniffing around PureFlex but won’t be buying for another three to four years. I wouldn’t expect PureSystems to make a lot of noise in the IBM i market in the meantime as companies think out their next upgrade plans. I’m also watching for some action in the managed service provider business, where PureFlex could find its best niche in the short term.
For the most part, Howard peppered his presentation with IBM survey results and reports from analyst/research firms that support the concept of converged systems as a predictable outcome.
The most recent IBM survey of chief executive officers shows more than 70 percent believe technology is the most important external factor impacting business, climbing above economic conditions and competition, which were at the top of the charts until the most current survey.
Howard told his audience that IT is “moving to a strategic center” and is no longer being considered a “cost center” in companies willing to make investments because of IT’s revenue generation capabilities. Companies have their sights set on new applications–mobile being a big category–and the need to accelerate implementations. These are the types of projects, he said, that make a difference for the bottom line.
“Sharing more information and doing more transactions creates huge data and the potential to learn what is in that data with analytics software,” he says. And services delivered via cloud will be the model to use.”
Although the percentage of IT budgets that are spent on hardware is decreasing, the cost of managing servers continues to grow, Howard said. And that includes the management of virtual servers.
According to the marketing VP, IBM shipped more than 6,000 PureSystems from the intro in April 2012 through the second quarter 2013 and that 300 case studies have been written to document the implementations at companies around the world. A very high percentage of these are combination of AIX and X86 infrastructures. He also noted 6,700 partners have attained PureSystems certifications. It shows that skills in the reseller channel are being developed and that knowledge will lead to success, he predicted.
All of this is part of the maturation of PureSystems. It’s really a work in progress. Just as it’s a work in progress to bring the IBM i customer base into the so-called mainstream of modern multi-platform computing.
To illustrate how an IBM i shop can benefit, Howard introduced Dale Tasic, manager of network infrastructure at AltaGas Utilities in Alberta, Canada, and Dale Smith, a territory executive for AniSoft Group, an Avnet business partner. The two of them led a project that migrated two IBM midrange servers–an iSeries 810 and a Power 570–along with 55 X86 servers to a PureFlex system. In the process they decommissioned 26 machines, went to 11 rack servers, 12 x240 nodes, and phased it in during the course of three weekends with a small team.
“The reason we jumped on PureFlex so fast is because it is all those pieces in one box,” Tasic said.
Howard smiled approvingly.