IBM promises virtual machines in minutes

The company has updated its cloud management tools with beta software designed to deploy virtual machines in seconds, a feature its says will free businesses from forward planning

IBM has introduced virtual deployment software for its cloud-computing stack that promises to virtualise an entire datacentre within minutes.

The high-speed provisioning software, which is available immediately in an open beta, can create and deploy a single virtual machine in seconds, dozens in a few minutes and thousands in less than an hour, the company said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Pulse conference in Las Vegas, IBM said that the update to its cloud management package will allow businesses to dip into and release resources more dynamically and get new applications online more quickly.

Dennis Quan, director of the Tivoli China development laboratory, said that, typically, companies are reluctant to release resources back into a cloud once the systems have completed a workload. He argued that as the new technology allows virtual machines to be set up quickly, it will free businesses from having to plan deployments ahead of time and let them treat their cloud as a pool of resources.

"With the new capability, we tell users they can recycle [resources] into the cloud, and it only takes minutes to get them back," Quan told ZDNet UK. "This can change the mindset of users who are hesitant to give up resources."

With the new capability, we tell users they can recycle [resources] into the cloud, and it only takes minutes to get them back.

– Dennis Quan, IBM

IBM is also pitching the technology as an aid to management of existing set-ups. "It's not limited to [adding] new apps — with existing apps, with upgrades or trying to correct an issue with a site, the speed with which you can get virtual machines deployed is a key part of that," Quan said.

The provisioning technology, developed in IBM's China labs with contributions from other research facilities around the world, gets its speed boost in part by taking an alternative initial approach. "Most virtual machine deployments have as a first step the copying of the virtual machine image," Quan said. "One thing we do is we skip that step."

Initially, the beta is available for x86 servers, and IBM is looking to extend it to other platforms. Quan declined to give specific details, but noted that IBM's cloud supports high-end Unix machines and mainframes, in addition to x86 systems.

The software is designed to integrate with IBM's management stack for cloud computing, which the company sees as being a "key enabler" in dealing with data such as healthcare records and image archives, according to Quan. Cloud computing is the latest and most mature attempt to provide various computing services — from applications to infrastructure — on demand.

John Easton, cloud technology chief for IBM UK and Ireland, said that most organisations he talks to could move their workloads to the cloud today. "I've not come across one who could not, yet," he told ZDNet UK.

Security fears

He identified security fears as being the biggest obstacle for UK businesses considering moving to a cloud infrastructure. "In these cases, we're seeing many firms opt to build their own private cloud, retaining that control of the data," he said.

He added that once companies start to feel more comfortable with the idea of cloud computing, he expected to see more of them moving their less sensitive data into public clouds.

IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager for Virtual Environments, set to go on sale on 13 March, is aimed at allaying some fears about data security, at least in terms of backup and recovery. The company highlighted the technology alongside its announcement of the provisioning beta as a key part of its package for faster virtual machine management.  It offers block-level incremental backups and offloading of backup workloads from virtual machines, as well as flexible recovery options from a single pass backup.

Another piece of the virtual machine deployment jigsaw is IBM's existing Tivoli Provisioning Manager 7.2, which is designed to improve the automating of IT resource allocation. IBM said the software will minimise the image sprawl often associated with virtual machines by automating best practices.

Finally, IBM has extended its service management to hybrid (public and private) cloud environments. This technology "extends service management capabilities such as governance, monitoring and security across physical and virtualised resources in private and public clouds as well as traditional physical deployments", the company said.

ZDNet UK's Karen Friar contributed to this report.


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