IBM PureFlex System: The Next Smart Step in Enterprise IT Evolution


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More recently, these same trends have been manifested in two new classes of IT products cloud computing infrastructures and workload- or application-optimized systems and appliances. The former tend to leverage highly virtualized commodity server, storage and networking components and streamlined management tools. That makes them ideal for the easy deployment and quick integration that are so valuable in cloud data centers where rapid growth and flexible resource allocation play key roles.

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IBM PureFlex System: The Next Smart Step in Enterprise IT Evolution

  1. 1. Marketplace Update May 2012 IBM PureFlex System: The Next Smart Step in Enterprise IT Evolution By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc. Pund-IT, Inc. Contact: Hayward, CA Office: 510-383-6767 U.S.A. 94541 Mobile: 510-909-0750
  2. 2. IBM PureFlex System: The Next Smart Step in EnterpriseIT EvolutionBy Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.IntroductionFor decades, corporate IT has been driven by two parallel, though not always complemen-tary, evolutionary trends: 1) the appearance of essentially new computing technologies andform factors, and 2) the steady expansion of business processes and use cases to which ITis applied. The chain of events that led to the appearance of mainframe, then scale-upUnix, then scale-out x86 systems offers one example of this transformation. So does thearrival of solutions which presage customer requirements, such as the development ofhighly flexible, integrated and compact blade server systems.More recently, these same trends have been manifested in two new classes of IT prod-ucts—cloud computing infrastructures and workload- or application-optimized systems andappliances. The former tend to leverage highly virtualized commodity server, storage andnetworking components and streamlined management tools. That makes them ideal forthe easy deployment and quick integration that are so valuable in cloud data centers whererapid growth and flexible resource allocation play key roles.The latter cases often incorporate many of the same commodity hardware components,along with finely tuned middleware and application stacks which are factory- or client-integrated for particular workloads. Many such solutions are developed for emerging chal-lenges, like IBM’s Netezza data analytics offerings. But some vendors are taking the con-cept considerably farther by focusing on vertically-integrated “stacks” which, though theysometimes offer compelling performance, tend to be costly and lock customers into longterm commitments.So is there a better, more effective approach? Actually, yes—IBM’s new PureSystems lever-age the value of the company’s proven system designs and components against its dec-ades of experience in system integration and management. IBM PureSystems are “expertintegrated systems” designed to combine the flexibility of general purpose servers, theelasticity of cloud and the simplicity of appliances tuned for specific workloads.IBM’s PureSystems offerings are deeply-optimized, pre-integrated solutions specifically de-signed to support key business applications and processes, as well as evolving IT infra-structures, including cloud computing.Note: This report was developed by Pund-IT, Inc. with IBM assistance and funding. This report may utilize in-formation, including publicly available data, provided by various companies and sources, including IBM. Theopinions are those of the report’s author, and do not necessarily represent IBM’s position. 2
  3. 3. The first two members of IBM’s PureSystems family are: IBM PureFlex System—Combines compute, storage, networking, virtualization and management into a single infrastructure system that is expert at sensing and anticipat- ing the resources required to optimize an IT infrastructure. IBM PureApplication System—A workload-aware, flexible platform designed and tuned specifically for transactional web and database applications.Along with delivering superior performance and measurably improving time to value, IBM’sPureSystems family represents a new class of IT solutions which have been designed fromthe ground up for the well-being and peace of mind of customers, not their IT vendors.Status Quo—The Once and Future Data Center ChallengeSimply put, supporting the data center status quo is crippling IT today and stranglinghopes of capturing future benefits. Numerous projections suggest that nearly three quar-ters of the $3.5T spent annually on IT budgets worldwide are spent just keeping the lightson in data centers. Partly as a result of that, it is estimated that IT backlogs can run up to18 months and that about a fifth of new data center projects fail from the get-go. But whilethose numbers are shocking, the problem is actually more insidious.Companies are so used to this state of affairs that long wait times for projects to get upand running have become an acceptable practice, as is over-provisioning (buying moreproduct than required) to ensure organizations will have as much performance, capacityand/or bandwidth as they need. As a result, creating custom solutions to make the bestuse of whatever is on hand becomes the order of the day, layering additional complexityonto already overly complicated IT environments. But given the quick pace of change thatmost companies experience, the value of customized proprietary solutions tends to erodeever more rapidly.So what do organizations actually want? How about easy-to-deploy systems with better op-tions, deeper integration, greater native performance and robust capacity/bandwidth? Howabout solutions with simplified yet highly effective automated management tools? Howabout working with vendors whose products deliver improved time to value today but arealso flexible and adaptable enough to meet constantly changing requirements tomorrow?Those are the principles IBM addressed in the development of its new expert integratedPureSystems family, including the PureFlex System and PureApplication System offerings.Why IBM?Before looking at the IBM PureFlex System in detail, let’s consider the company’s overall sit-uation and why so many enterprises have come to depend on IBM as a trusted vendor.First, we would cite IBM’s notable experience/expertise in virtually all phases of enterprisehardware, software, system and infrastructure management and facilities solutions and ser- 3
  4. 4. vices development. Along with the market leadership positions of its Power Systems andSystem z mainframes, the company’s x86-based System x servers have consistently deliv-ered superior performance. Finally, IBM invests far more in R&D (averaging $6B annually)than major competitors and has been the top patent recipient among U.S. companies forthe past 19 years.Finally, IBM has a long history of close, successful partnerships with vendors of every sort,including competitors such as Oracle and HP, to support the needs of mutual customers.The result? Along with essentially defining enterprise IT, IBM has become a favored destina-tion for enterprise customers that have become dissatisfied with other vendors.IBM PureFlex System—The Smarter DifferenceGiven those inherent strengths, what does IBM hope to accomplish with its new PureFlexSystem?IBM certainly understands the value of learning from the past and maximally leveragingnew technologies, including Intel’s latest “Sandy Bridge” Xeon E5-2400 and IBM POWER7CPUs. But it also recognizes that the “buy it/build it” model many companies use when ac-quiring and deploying new systems is essentially hindering both IT and business goals. Thequestions then become: 1) what computing/business problems do enterprise customersneed to address, and 2) what would a successful solution look like?A simple answer to the former point is: ease, speed, functionality and automation. In short,companies want systems that are simple to acquire, deploy, manage and support, butwhich deliver top line performance, can be easily integrated into their current environ-ments and are also adaptable to evolving processes and needs. That means that ratherthan requiring over-provisioning, systems instead can scale automatically for new work-loads. Plus, instead of the rat’s nest of multiple tools and dashboards so common in heter-ogeneous systems, ideal solutions would offer a single point of management for compute,storage, networking, software and services.These systems would then deliver both significantly faster time to value and improvedlifecycle management. So how can a vendor meet those stringent requirements? IBM knowsthat deep integration is the only way to achieve reliably robust performance, along withbuilt-in workload elasticity and scalability. In addition, integration can help speed acquisi-tion and deployment processes, and support automated management tools and features.So in the new IBM PureFlex System, the company has basically taken what were once cus-tom solutions and turned them into standard SKUs. Recognizing the need for a system ar-chitecture with capabilities appropriate for new and emerging workloads, IBM invested over$2 billion in PureSystems, including related acquisitions and R&D. As a result, the new of-ferings, including the IBM PureFlex System, leverage the company’s considerable experi-ence at developing and integrating hardware and software at the deepest levels. Plus, built- 4
  5. 5. in “expertise” significantly enhances the new systems’ ability to address increasingly com-plex and critical business and operational tasks.The IBM PureFlex System is available in three basic configurations (Express, Standard andEnterprise) and can be ordered with Expert Integration (performed at the factory) depend-ing on a customer’s needs and IT resources, or upgraded/customized via the system ex-pansion and component options a buyer chooses. IBM is also significantly broadening theavailability of integrated solutions and use cases by closely engaging its ISV partners in theprocess. As a result, not only does the company’s approach offer customers optimal flexi-bility, it also helps them avoid the lock-in implicit in proprietary “stacks.”IBM PureFlex—Under the HoodBefore looking at familiar and new aspects of PureFlex System solutions, along with whatmakes them significantly different from other solutions, here’s an overview of the generalfeatures and available options in PureFlex Express, Standard and Enterprise configurations: PureFlex Solution Express Standard Enterprise Core Value Affordable entry point Optimized for applications Optimized for high reliabil- ity/resiliency Use Case Simple acquisition & quick Support key ISV solutions Support critical applica- deployment tions & cloud deployments Features: IBM PureSystems 42u Yes Yes Yes Rack IBM Flex System Chassis Yes Yes Yes Compute Node Minimum 1 Minimum 1 Minimum 2 Integrated 10GB Net- 1 1 2 + upgrades 1 & 2 working Switch Integrated 8GB FC 1 2 2 Switch IBM Flex System Optional Optional Optional 8/16GB SAN Scalable Switch Integrated Manage- Yes Yes Yes ment Node IBM Flex System Man- Basic w/1 year of service Advanced w/3 years of Advanced w/3 years of ager Edition & support service & support service & support Power Supplies 2/6 4/6 6/6 (std/max) 80mm fans (std/max) 4/8 6/8 8/8 IBM Storwize V7000 Yes (redundant controller) Yes (redundant controller) Yes (redundant controller) Disk System IBM Storwize V7000 Base w/1 year SW mainte- Base w/3 year SW mainte- Base w/3 year SW mainte- Software nance nance nance 5
  6. 6. Now let’s consider some of these points more deeply, to gain insight into IBM’s technologi-cal intentions and how customers can benefit from those efforts: Architecture—The core architecture of the System has been designed from the ground up, taking into consideration not only hardware integration but also software integra- tion. During the process, IBM leveraged its deep knowledge of physical integration and consolidation but also leveraged its Tivoli assets to design a truly expert integrated so- lution. As a result, IBM PureFlex System is designed to provide the best in hardware platform performance along with time tested integration features to help customers lower overall management costs and reduce deployment time so they respond faster to changing business needs. Compute Nodes—Similar to other integrated systems, IBM PureFlex System offers a va- riety of highly flexible compute node solutions featuring the latest 2--socket Intel Xeon E5-2400 (EP and EN) and IBM POWER7 CPUs. These can be configured for virtually any application/workload or customer use case, from cost-optimized entry products to high density cloud infrastructures to systems leveraging the same core technology as IBM’s “Watson.” Storage—The new Systems’ Flex System “storage nodes” leverage IBM Storwize V7000 technology to support dense, high-performance storage with integrated management. The storage nodes can also virtualize and manage data on third-party storage from a list of more than 130 products in the same way that IBM SAN Volume Controller and Storwize V7000 systems have supported virtualizing third-party storage. Finally, the PureFlex System offers several solid-state storage options for applications that require high IOPs. Networking—Integrated networking has long been a staple in IBM’s solutions, but the PureFlex System offerings take the concept to new levels of extreme performance and flexibility for both physical and virtualized applications. That is certainly apparent in the networking solution “firsts” offered in IBM PureFlex System: first Flex System Fabric 10Gb Scalable Switch, first 40Gb capable Ethernet switch, first 16Gb capable SAN switch; and first 56Gb capable Infiniband FDR switches. But it is also clear in the plat- form’s robust node-to-node communications capabilities. In short, IBM PureFlex System networking solutions can be flexibly adapted to address virtually any customer require- ment. Virtualization—Virtualization is a core competency in data centers of every size and kind, but IBM well understands that supporting customer choice is critical. To that end, the company offers a wide range of PureFlex System virtualization options, including PowerVM, VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V and KVM solutions. Management—A purposely-built, flexibly integrated platform like IBM PureFlex System requires a similarly flexible solution for system management, and the company’s new Flex System Manager provides a single point of control backbone for physical, virtual, workload and configuration management. The solution offers a host of key features at launch, and IBM’s roadmap includes the addition of significant new functions and capa- bilities later in 2012. 6
  7. 7.  The IBM Partner Equation—This aspect of IBM’s PureFlex System effort tangibly demonstrates the company’s dedication to openness and customer choice, and also contrasts starkly with homogeneous, single vendor ”stacks.” IBM’s deep hardware and software expertise will help to assure that PureFlex System delivers optimal perfor- mance, and solutions, and services available from more than 125 IBM ISV partners should significantly expand the range of applications, processes and industries for which the new solutions can be used. Finally, though deeply integrated systems tend to be used for highly strategic applications today, we believe that efforts by IBM and its partners around PureFlex System will significantly expand the markets for these solu- tions in the future. The App Store Experience—IBM’s new PureSystems Centre ( software/brandcatalog/puresystems/centre/) is an easy to use app store where custom- ers can access and learn about PureFlex System solutions and application patterns from IBM and its business partners.Final AnalysisFor organizations that need to get the most and best out of their IT investments both todayand in the future, the status quo is a no-go. That is certainly the case with the “buy it/buildit” customized systems of the past, but it also applies to the simplistic proprietary stacksand “one commodity platform fits all” product strategies some vendors favor.IBM understands that cookie cutter solutions can never adequately support enterprises’critical current and future IT requirements. Instead, those organizations need computingsolutions that are simple to acquire, deploy and manage, and which deliver top line perfor-mance both today and in future. Those systems should be easy to integrate into existingdata centers but should also be adaptable for evolving applications and business process-es. That, in a nutshell, is the concept behind the IBM PureFlex System.To achieve this, the company has leveraged lessons learned from decades of system devel-opment, integration and management—with current best of breed technologies in its ownPower Systems, iDataPlex, BladeCenter and System z platforms, and those of partners in-cluding Intel, VMware and Microsoft.The resulting IBM PureSystems solutions are new from the ground-up, delivering innova-tions and capabilities which are virtually unavailable elsewhere. Just as importantly, tappinginto the experience and expertise of over 125 IBM ISV partners will help PureSystems cus-tomers avoid the lock-in implicit in proprietary solutions and should also help expand thedemand for deeply integrated systems.What effects will IBM’s PureFlex System exert on the market? First, we expect the contrastbetween IBM’s devotion to customer choice and other vendors’ attempts to lock-in clientswith proprietary vertical stacks will be starkly obvious to enterprise customers. If that’s thecase, expect competitors to try emulating IBM’s approach, though few have the experien-tial and technological depth to do so successfully. 7
  8. 8. In addition, by fully leveraging its ISV partners’ offerings and expertise, IBM should also ef-fectively increase demand for deeply integrated, easy to deploy systems far beyond theirrelatively narrow existing confines. That, in turn, could lead organizations to recognize thedifference between what their IT investments payback today and consider how adoptingsolutions like IBM PureFlex System could affect future returns.Overall, enterprises that wish to capture significantly improved system performance todayand enhanced IT investment value in the future would do well to consider the new IBMPureFlex System.© 2012 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.About Pund-IT, Inc.Pund-IT emphasizes understanding technology and product evolution and interpreting the effects thesechanges will have on business customers and the greater IT marketplace. 8