IBM Peddles Another 2,000 PureSystems Machines
October 21, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The ramp of IBM‘s PureSystems converged machines continues apace, with the company growing its installed base of unique systems by 25 percent in the third quarter ended in September.
“PureSystems continues to gain momentum,” said Mark Loughridge, IBM’s chief financial officer, on a call with Wall Street analysts going over the third quarter financial result for IBM. “In the major markets, we grew more than 30 percent sequentially. Globally, we shipped over 2,000 systems in third quarter, with over 8,000 total shipments since announcement.”
Depending on who I ask, and when I ask them, a PureSystems system is a rack or it is a unique collection of racks that qualifies as a unique PureSystems configuration. When I asked IBM last week what a “system” was in PureSystems as Loughridge was referring to them in reference to the PureSystems ramp, I was told that a system was a unique set of iron sold to a unique customer. IBM is not, as I had been told before, counting total racks sold with the PureSystems label on them. In any event, a system can be one or more racks, each with multiple Flex System enclosures that in turn have up to 14 single-width or seven full-width compute nodes.
In December last year, IBM said it had shipped more than 2,300 PureSystems machines across its many brands–PureFlex, PureSystems, PureData, and PureApplication–which have different iron and different systems software added to them. The machines started shipping in May, so that works out to a rate of about 330 systems per month during 2012, on average. In April this year, at the anniversary of the launch of the initial PureSystems machines, IBM said that it had shipped a total of 4,000 systems, and that means 1,700 of them were added from January through April, which is around 485 systems per month. Through the end of June, the total number of PureSystems machines was above 6,000, which means the rate had increased to around 575 systems per month. And during the third quarter, it looks like the rate accelerated a bit more, to about 665 systems per month on average, by my math.
Assuming that 8,000 unique systems in the field does not mean 8,000 racks, that could be something on the order of 10,000 to 20,000 racks, and assuming that customers only fill those racks halfway to leave room for expansion, that could be many hundreds of thousands of server nodes. If, as we have been told before, 8,000 systems means 8,000 racks, that could be on the order of 200,000 to 400,000 server nodes in total.
I am dying to know if PureSystems sales are meeting expectations and when they will be material enough to be broken out as a separate item. I am also curious how these revenues get allocated in IBM’s financial presentations. Is PureSystems revenue tucked into Software Group, which sponsored the launch of these “Project Troy” machines, or is it split up and allocated to Power Systems and System x as appropriate?