IBM gets converged but will it succeed?

Summary:It's like that final shoot-out in For a Few Dollars More. You've seen it: as Morricone's music builds, the three protagonists arrange themselves slowly in a circle, not taking their eyes off each other.

It's like that final shoot-out in For a Few Dollars More. You've seen it: as Morricone's music builds, the three protagonists arrange themselves slowly in a circle, not taking their eyes off each other. The components of that scene come together after a long build-up: and so it is with datacentre converged systems.

We don't yet know who's going to win this shoot-out but we do know that the daddy of systems vendors, IBM, has finally joined the circle, which so far has consisted mainly of Cisco and HP, with Oracle standing by as a bit of an understudy.

Starting from the middle of May, IBM will start selling PureSystems, which it describes as an integrated system for the datacentre with: "the flexibility of general purpose system, the elasticity of cloud and the simplicity of an appliance tuned to the workload-fundamentally changing the experience and economics of IT."

It consists of IBM's own Xeon- or Power-based servers, Storwize storage, and 10GbE networking, plus storage connectivity networking from QLogic and Brocade, and application and infrastructure software from the usual suspects, including VMware and Red Hat -- and of course IBM.

Pure's server element is a new set of 10U chassis and horizontally oriented blades, a system that, according to this report, is more flexible than IBM's existing BladeCenter system. The Storwize kit provides locally accessed tier storage and other virtualisation features.

There's a lot there, and much of the detail of these systems, whose entry-level price is said to be around $100k, has yet to be revealed. There's a little more detail here from IBM.

It's clear though that the approach IBM has taken with Pure sits between those of Cisco and HP, using mostly IBM products, some existing, some new, along with some third party hardware and software. In contrast, HP has produced everything itself, arguing that the 'one throat to choke' approach is best, while Cisco has assembled what it calls best-of-breed components, mostly from third parties.

What's also interesting is what it means for datacentre managers. Cisco and HP have had the converged datacentre block market to themselves for a while but this means little: this is not a market with a fast turnover. IBM will have been planning and developing this system for at least 18 months, probably more.

What's more, it has previous. There's no company that understands more about developing and selling systems than IBM, and it's been at it since the beginning of time -- in computer terms, you understand.

That's why you can be sure that, if it's a success, IBM will make shedloads out of software, service and support. It's even reportedly including an IBM engineer in the price. It's not clear if said individual will live in one of the boxes, popping out as and when.

In a way, IBM is betting the company on PureSystems. While IBM is diversified enough that it won't bring the company down should enterprises not buy enough PureSystems to defray the no-doubt considerable development costs, for IBM to make a failure out of selling them would be embarrassing. At the very least.

So you can expect a lot of sales effort and now IBM has had time time to identify what it might see as the opposition's weak points, I would expect Big Blue to have got it right.

Topics: Networking


Manek Dubash is an analyst and journalist with over 30 years experience. Focused on business technology, he observes and comments on enterprise infrastructure issues for a range of industry-influential websites. His work has appeared in national newspapers as well as specialist technology journals and websites. He has also held senior pos... Full Bio

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