The results of three years of work and $2,000,000,000 in R&D spending were released by IBM yesterday as the PureSystems line of fully integrated rack enclosures that contain a complete computing environment, from servers to switches to storage, in a single enclosure. This latest entry in the converged datacenter market has a few unique twists which should make it stand out from the offerings from competitors, and makes it clear that rather than considering themselves late to the party IBM believes it can reshape the party in the form it likes.
Available in three configurations, Express, Standard, and Enterprise, with prices starting around $100,000 the product line consists of the hardware component (computing, switching, storage) known as PureFlex, and the application components, referred to as PureApplications, which includes database and web components. Unlike their competitors, each of the hardware systems can support a mix of server CPU (x86 and PowerPC) as well as operating systems (Windows,Linux, AIX) allowing the customer to configure the system to meet their specific needs and simplify migration of existing environments.
IBM has also partnered with well over 100 ISVs to develop application packages they refer to as "patterns of expertise" which allow these pre-approved applications to rapidly be configured and deployed on in the PureSytems environment. And in confirmation of their broad level of OS and application support, the hypervisors from IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat, and VMware are all supported, letting the customer pick and choose their virtualization provider.
With the hardware running the IBM SmartCloud, you could describe these offerings as a cloud-in-abox, which actually shortchanges the capabilities of the systems. The real question is will customers be willing to take on the admittedly expensive cloud deployment and convergence approach that IBM has developed here, or try to remain true to the original cloud concept of scaling out with cheap commodity systems. When looked at as a TCO question over the life of the applications, the fact that applications get certified for operation in the PureSystems environment, and the potential that has to limit problems that can be encountered when one rolls their own solutions, IBM has a good argument for their design choices. But is it a strong enough argument to get customers past the cost of buy-in?