IBM rolls out the 'Smart Cube' with app market: Think enterprise iPod-iTunes combo

IBM rolls out the 'Smart Cube' with app market: Think enterprise iPod-iTunes combo

Summary: IBM on Tuesday will announce a pact with Intuit for an integrated server that's designed to be a small to midsized businesses IT department in a box. The appliance, dubbed the Smart Cube, is designed to offer email, calendaring, security, finance and other enterprise apps out of the box.

TOPICS: IT Employment, CXO, IBM

IBM on Tuesday will announce a pact with Intuit for an integrated server that's designed to be a small to midsized businesses IT department in a box. The appliance, dubbed the Smart Cube, is designed to offer email, calendaring, security, finance and other enterprise apps out of the box. 

In many respects, IBM's Smart Cube emulates Apple's model with the iPod. The big pitch is to integrate software and hardware (iPod, Mac) in a tight package with a marketplace (iTunes). Big Blue's Smart Cube is lumped into its Smart Business offering, which includes:

  • The Smart Cube hardware, which starts just under $8,000;
  • Smart Market, a marketplace for customers to download enterprise applications (so far there are 48 business apps from 17 software companies);
  • Smart Desk, a dashboard for maintenance, to manage applications on the Cube and in the cloud;
  • Integrated Intuit's QuickBooks Enterprise. 

IBM's claim for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs): Four steps and you're running without manuals, installation CDs and configuration hassles. The Smart Cube is sold through channel partners. IBM argues that these value added resellers are the preferred channel for many small businesses. However, IBM will be the sole point of contact for technical support.

Big Blue's sweet spot is expected to be for companies with 15 to 1,000 employees. The target market for QuickBooks enterprise is companies with 20 to 500 employees.

The big pitch to SMBs is that they can save on labor and time because the IBM lineup won't require integration work. 

Matt Friedman, vice president of marketing for IBM's Smart Business unit, said the Smart Cube has print serving, VOIP, database, network, storage and backup settings integrated. 

Friedman made a point to note that the Smart Cube isn't preconfigured as much as it is integrated at the factory with more than 150 IBM patents. Friedman considered it a software and services in a box effort. "We automated the complexity," said Friedman, adding that the Smart Business platform is designed to run "all core business applications from ERP to supply chain to CRM to vertical industry apps."

As for the ROI case, IBM argues that SMBs can save $20,000 over three years relative to similar Microsoft Windows-based offerings from Dell and HP. Most of that savings derives from the labor associated with deployment, maintenance and system and software management. The Smart Cube comes in two flavors--Linux and IBM's i operating system.

Other key points:

  • Independent software vendors (ISVs) pay IBM to have their applications listed in the Smart Market. IBM drives demand and offers the technical support. Friedman wouldn't disclose the license revenue split, but did not that it's "not dissimilar to the Apple model."
  • The Smart Market allows potential customers to compare applications by industry, company size and categories. 


  • IBM's market place won't do freebies. Some apps ran north of $70,000. 

Topics: IT Employment, CXO, IBM

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  • You're still going to need an Admin, trained by IBM upfront cost

    SMBs can save 'beaucoup deniro' by using Linux and hire a certified Linux admin off the street--all ready to hit the ground running.

    Add to the purchase price IBM's software maintenance and maybe you don't have a 'real' savings.

    Please check one only:

    [ ]Yes? [ ]No?
  • Sounds very good

    I hope the above will be a trend among venders such as Dell, HP, and Cisco.
    P. Douglas
    • I don't like everything in ONE box

      I don't like everything in ONE box. When that
      one box has hardware issues (like a broken
      power supply for example), I'd be sweating
      • Maybe ...

        ... but I like is the idea of selling turnkey systems that have a comparable management simplicity to cloud solutions, but where the data is kept on premises.
        P. Douglas
      • ONE box, 2 power supplies

        I saw a video of how to install the smart cube, there are 2 power supplies, 2 power cords. I assume there is some basic duplication of important parts.
      • You're not used to grown up computers

        The IBM i OS is the latest name for the AS/400 which has been around since 1988. The hardware is very dependable and you don't need an army of admins to run it. The company I work for runs a couple billion dollar business off of these machines and there are a total of 2 admins which is actually a lot for the platform in general. Typically, these machines are maintained part time by development staff or someone in the office.

        There are a lot of people running the Windows and *nix servers (of which there are a lot because they suck at running mixed workloads) and those people are not free.

        As far as harware depenability goes, first off, most critical components (power supplies, system buses, etc...) are redundant. Second, it can automatically disable things like failed memory and CPU's and keep humming along. I've been involved with these machines for about 16 years and I've only seen one hardware failure effectibly take a machine down. That was a failed power supply in an EMC disk rack that tripped a breaker in the cabinet it was installed in.

        I think there was an OS crash in there too at some point but those are very rare. You can't say that about much else short of a mainframe.

        • Jup

          These babies will even survive a faser blast, if it's been set to stun.


          // Jesper (just kidding)
      • Makes perfect sence

        I am an admin for a Global company. They are a true MS shop and they spend millions on support, and licensing. I also have my own servers for my home business hosting webpages. As a corp I can maybe see the requirements for paying for the extras. Though I have yet to see any real support from MS that a real Admin couldnt deal with. Most of the time it is issues that MS ends up saying that "It is compatibility with XYZ software, Not MS".
        As my home business is critical for up time also, My hardware has redundant power supplies, RAID5 for Drive Failsafe, and regular tape backups. I can purchase the "Extras" in my hardware by saving on the "Licensing" that I would normally pay to MS.
        I like having one Server to maintain rather than splitting services across several boxes.
        Even if users had separate services on separate servers does that make you feel comfy? Email server down, Is that just a minor issue? Or is the Print server down a minor? Proxy Server? Which would be a minor? I have found that if a user can't Print, or Email is down, or can't get to the internet, then thier work stops, and I would be under the gun already.
      • Small businesses usually only have one box.

        So it won't be any different to normal.
  • RE: IBM rolls out the 'Smart Cube' with app market: Think enterprise iPod-iTunes combo

    It sounds like an AS/400. Oh wait, it IS an AS/400!
  • RE: IBM rolls out the 'Smart Cube' with app market: Think enterprise iPod-iTunes combo

    • SmartCube deja vu

      (btw test successful...)

      when i hear about IBM rolling out 'Smart Cube', i'm not thinking enterprise iPod-iTunes, i'm thinking about actual name for this thing. will it be BS/500? ;-)
  • RE: IBM rolls out the 'Smart Cube' with app market: Think enterprise iPod-iTunes combo

    For that price you should have 2 cubes like a cluster. running virutal machines that smart swap if needed. Need big ole backup.
    • Probably is a cluster inside

      If this is really based on iSeries hardware, as I suspect, it's probably like a cluster in a box. iSeries supported more than 64 Power CPs in a machine several years ago, as well as being hot-pluggable and having redundant power supplies, being partitioned, etc, etc. I don't work on those machines, but they're much more powerful and robust than a typical SOHO server. Suspect the one in the picture is the low end version. I will say the AS/400 never achieved the holy grail of obviating the need for an administrator, but it made some progress. Or you can buy the Linux version, if you prefer.
  • Upcoming NAS Competitors: Synology & QNAP

    IBM should be looking over its shoulder at open source, NAS (Network Attached Storage) appliances from upcoming vendors such as Synology and QNAP. These appliances are really under $1,000 headless Linux LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) servers with RAID disk controllers and gigabit Ethernet.

    Here is a comparison chart of Synology hardware:

    Here is a list of open source server applications ("Value Applications") available from Synology for a free download:

    Although most of the Synology NAS servers are sold without disk drives (eg. "2 bay"); here is a complete RAID 1 2x 500 GB drive Synology DS209 system on Amazon for $519:

    There is a gap between the Synology system and the IBM system, but the piranhas are hungry!

    Using a small solid state drive (SSD) would reduce seek time to near zero.

    As for Intuit QuickBooks, its system requirements says that it requires Microsoft .Net 2.0 runtime; if Synology added Novell's Mono, Intuit would be able to port Quickbooks to the Synology servers.

    The CPUs are underpowered single core, but coupled with an embedded Linux (probably Busybox) and no video adapter (configured over the network from a client PC), RAID disk controller and gigabit Ethernet the systems have a shrewd hardware trade off. In some respects the tradeoffs (low CPU power with lots of IO) resemble IBMs branch office computers from decades past.

    For price sensitive very small regional or branch offices, Synology and QNAP have very low price point making them potentially cost effect deployment servers. Think of early PCs and how fast they evolved.

    Jim Callahan
    Orlando, FL
  • RE: IBM rolls out the 'Smart Cube' with app market: Think enterprise iPod-i

    A lot more detailed info can be found here:

    EDIT: I didn't contribute to the article or
    verify everything in it ... but it does seem to
    answer some questions being asked here.

    David Dangerfield
  • Most US establishments have less than 20 employees

    According to US Census Department's "County Business Patterns (2006)" The potential small establishment market is huge.

    More than half (54.5%) of US business establishments have 4 or fewer employees.

    Almost three-fourths of US business establishments have less than 10 employees (73.3%).

    More than 85% of US business establishments have 20 or fewer employees (86.0%)

    There were more than six and a half million US business establishments with less than 20 employees and a little over a million establishments with 20 or more employees.

    Employees Establishments Share
    1-4 4,137,018 54.4%
    5-9 1,432,352 18.8%
    10-19 964,024 12.7%
    20-49 658,710 8.7%
    50-99 227,125 3.0%
    100-249 130,048 1.7%
    250-499 32,704 0.4%
    500-999 12,121 0.2%
    1000 or more 7,058 0.1%
    TOTAL 7,601,160 100.0%

    Adapted from:

    To see county business patters for a specific county or state see:

    Jim Callahan
    Orlando, FL
  • RE: IBM rolls out the 'Smart Cube' with app market: Think enterprise iPod-iTunes combo

    We are one of the few IBM Certified/Intuit smart cube resellers currently in the US.

    This things makes sense as it is a low touch environment. It leverages the AS400 technology, the machine itself is built like a tank, and the service is unbeatable.

    If any small business needs a solid foundation and truly wants to mitigate admin time - this is the way to go... the system back up itself, backup to ibm, the drives are hot swap, you take one of the drives home every day, the server auto updates with service packs from IBM and INTUIT and, and, and....

    The price is reasonable for entry level systems at about $4800 for the 24x7 support for the Cube directly from IBM...

    If you'll need more information give a call....