IBM Makes Strides to Simplify IT Infrastructure Page 2

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Sep 25, 2003


Scale Up, Scale Out, Simplify All Over

Enter the new IT landscape, where enterprises can scale out, using blade servers and grid computing, and be able to manage the topography from a central spot, and scale up, using high performance computing, mainframes, virtual blades, and grid technologies.

The cornerstone of IBM's scale-out offerings is its BladeCenter product, said Jeff Benck, vice president & business line executive for IBMs eServer BladeCenter Systems Group.

IBM placed BladeCenter in this key position because it believes the products uses extend beyond the oft-cited network edge and into the more intensive application layer roles. Potential uses for which IBM claims BladeCenter is well-suited include clustered workloads, distributed computing applications, infrastructure applications (e.g., file and print serving), small databases, processor- and memory-intensive workloads, and centralized storage solutions.

The scale-out concept is growing in popularity. Benck estimates that by 2006, more than 90 percent of all IT workloads will be deployable on a scale-out architecture. He cited a variety of enablers for this, including powerful 64-bit multiprocessors, Linux adoption, open standards, and distributed databases.

While scaling out has been getting the majority of the limelight, scaling up is gaining attention as well.

And the primary vehicle for scaling up: the venerable mainframe.

At the heart of IBM's scale up offerings is the z990, the eServer zSeries' flagship system. According to Rich Lechner, vice president of sales & marketing for enterprise servers, the z990 is capable of handling 13 billion transactions in a single day, more volume than the NYSE generates during that same period.

Ideal mainframe implementations include high-performance transaction processing, I/O workloads, large database serving, workloads with unpredictable and variable spikes, low utilization and infrastructure applications, and tasks that require rapid provisioning and reprovisioning.

According to Lechner, more than 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies currently use mainframes, and more than 78 percent of corporate data resides on mainframes. Furthermore, despite a sluggish economy and stagnant server market, mainframes have experienced 10 straight quarters of growth, Lechner said.

Lechner noted that IBM sold 175 mainframe in the past year, more than 70 percent of which were deployed for nontraditional uses.

The primary reason for this resurgent interest in the mainframe? Linux. "I can't overstate the importance of Linux," Lechner said.

Linux has breathed new life into the mainframe and is fueling much of this growth. And it doesn't hurt that Linux on a mainframe implementing virtulization techniques can accomplish much of what a blade server can do, Lechner told ServerWatch.

IBM isn't alone in recognizing what Linux can bring to the mainframe world. Linuxcare is another company that saw the synergy and based its business on this growth potential.

ServerWatch spoke with the San Francisco-based vendor last month. Linuxcare is betting its future on the capability of its Levanta product to provision, configure, and update virtual Linux servers on IBM zSeries mainframes. Now in its second generation, Levanta's goal, Linuxcare CEO Avery Lyford told ServerWatch, is to simplify the change management process that comes with virtual servers. Linuxcare selected mainframes as its first area of focus because out of all the system types, mainframes have the longest history of virtualization. Virtualization on the mainframe, Lyford points out, has been explored in great detail, and the mainframe customer base understands it well.

Linuxcare is also counting on Levanta to reverse a trend: According to Lyford, the legacy Unix market has been decreasing in double digits. By tying its code to a Linux instance and making it about 5 percent mainframe specific, Levanta aims to make deploying change management on the mainframe a more mainstream option.

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