IBMs Systems Strategy

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2010-03-30 Print this article Print


As you mentioned, IBM made a couple of major systems announcements in the first quarter of 2010-the new Power7 servers and eX5 on the x86 platform. Workload optimization was a major theme in both. Can you describe IBM's strategy there?

Workload optimization reflects how clients run IT to support their businesses. Sure, technically any platform can be configured to run any workload, but in reality workloads influence platform choices. For example, a typical transaction processing workload like core banking is characterized by a high rate of transactions. Scale matters and quality of service is extremely important. The Bank of China, for example, runs 380 million accounts on a single System z that processes 10,000 transactions a second with near zero down time per year.

For all the reasons I laid out about the way the world is changing, workload optimization will become even more important. Delivering greater value to CIOs means making this concept of intelligent performance easier to implement and manage. We're not asking them to standardize on a single platform, but we're doing the heavy lifting-the innovation, integration and optimization-for them. Hardware alone can't provide the breakthroughs. Consider that historically computational power doubles every two years-a factor of 32 over a 10-year period. We believe that to address the demanding requirements of emerging, data-intensive workloads, what's needed is a fourfold increase of computational power every two years. That means over 10 years-it's an exponential increase-a factor of 1,000. That's a really significant engineering challenge.

Delivering that kind of exponential improvement will require optimization at every level of the system. For example, Power7 isn't just about a new chip and new hardware-it's about integrated hardware and software to manage millions of concurrent transactions. We dramatically increased the parallel processing capabilities of middleware such as WebSphere, DB2 InfoSphere Warehouse and Cognos for managing data, transactions and analytics to support Power7 systems. That means clients or ISVs don't have to rewrite existing applications to take advantage of Power7's advances. IBM is leading this shift-leveraging the breadth of our portfolio of systems and software-and our unmatched expertise to deliver new levels of both innovation and integration.

Despite the company's history, the common assumption the last few years has been that IBM was becoming mainly a software and services company. IBM's recent aggressiveness and momentum in systems seem to contrast with that. How does IBM see systems fitting into its overall strategy?

IBM invests over $3 billion a year in systems and technology R&D for a reason. Our clients need innovative systems to help them reduce costs and support new business models. And IBM is innovating at every level: semiconductor, processor design, hardware design and architecture, operating system, systems management software. We work very hard at delivering highly optimized systems for transaction processing, analytics, business applications and Web collaboration. We know what our clients are looking for: innovation across a range of systems; high performance for ever-more-challenging workloads; extremely high levels of security and high availability; energy conservation; and, of course, low operating costs.

And that is driving our momentum. IBM has logged more than 2,100 customer wins in our Power servers from 2006 thru 2009, including nearly 1,050 versus Sun and nearly 825 versus HP. That has resulted in more than $2.15 billion in revenues. It's an average of more than one customer per day moving to IBM. Or I could talk about how we're building an impressive list of System z wins in emerging markets-such as First National Bank of Namibia, which purchased that African nation's first-ever mainframe last year. I have a pretty exciting job these days-it's an especially fun time to be working on systems at IBM.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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