IBM SmartCloud Early Adopters Explain How It Works for Them

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-04-08

IBM SmartCloud Early Adopters Explain How It Works for Them

SAN FRANCISCO - Three early adopters of IBM's new SmartCloud for Business were on hand at Big Blue's Cloud Forum event April 7 at the Westin St. Francis to explain in some detail how the new offering is adding to their IT production capacities.

The companies were scientific systems integrator Illuminata, health-care provider Kaiser Permanente and insurance and financial services specialist ING. The common thread among all three is "big data" and their need to employ more computing and storage capacity than on-site systems can muster.

IBM launched its first public-cloud service offering for production purposes at the event. See eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl Taft's news story for the details; read this story about what it means for potential users.

Illuminata Analyzes Genome Data in the Cloud

Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata, which focuses on large IT and communications infrastructures and large user bases, ran the IT for the Human Genome Project. This was a major-league big-data initiative coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health that took 13 years (1990-2003) and more than $3 billion to produce a mere one human genome.

Primary project goals were to identify all the 20,000 to 25,000 genes in human DNA, determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA and store this information in databases.

Even though the HGP shut down its information-gathering phase eight years ago, analyses of the data will continue for years to come. That's what Illuminata is doing.

"We've come a long way since then [in computing workload methods]," said Scott Skellenger, director of Global Information Services for Illuminata. "It took 13 years [using 1980s and '90s IT] to produce just one genome. Now, we've really had to get creative with the way we process the data coming off the instruments.

"Three years ago, you could go up to Fry's and put together your own architecture to handle that data coming off the instruments. Then, about 18 months ago, you could go to a very purpose-built HPC architecture. Now where we're at the point where most of our customer base isn't going to be able to support enough computational and storage capacity on site to support even a single instrument."

Now that's really big data. Illuminata is now doing its genome analysis using only the IBM public cloud.

"Some of the main areas of concern for us are around the regulatory and security spaces, and getting our problems solved without compromising our business. We've felt that IBM's experience here as compared to the competition has given us confidence and an on-ramp to the cloud that we might not have been able to enjoy as quickly," Skellenger said.

Kaiser Puts Patient Interaction in Cloud


Kaiser Permanente Puts Patient Interaction in Cloud

In March 2009-during the height of the recession-Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest health care providers in the United States, struck a $500 million, seven-year outsourcing agreement with IBM to take over its electronic health records system.

Since then, a new need for cloud-computing services has led to more business between KP and IBM. Carlos Matos, director of technology integration for KP's IT group, said that a number of functions that formerly were handled inside the data center are now being performed in the IBM cloud.

These include the KP Website, which handles patient interactions regarding health advice, appointments and cancellations; patient records and imaging; physicians' records; health plan and insurance transactions; regulatory and audit processes; and other services.

"Our biggest issues have been around security and compliance, as you might imagine," Matos said. "Even though we took a very secure private-cloud implementation approach, our security people still deemed that as being an untrusted environment. So the checks and balances are there, as they should be.

"We're in the process of working through it, but it's a journey that has greater benefits versus traditional IT delivery."

ING Uses Cloud to Manage Mixed IT Environment


ING Uses Cloud to Manage Mixed IT Environment

ING, based in Windsor, Conn., runs an international insurance, financial services and banking business. It is using the IBM cloud to manage all of its x86 platforms as well as its older Unix and AIX systems, said CTO Tony Kerrison.

"This has been key because we don't all run x86 as a workload," Kerrison said. "Like a lot of organizations, we have a mix. What we've tried to do is come up a layer, above hypervisors in the underlying stack, and use things like this [cloud] to manage all the infrastructure underneath. This brings a lot more benefits to us because we can use our infrastructure in a more economic way."

ING also developed a process to deploy standardized stacks-whether x86, AIX or other platforms, Kerrison said.

"That was very important, so that we could get the most of out of the underlying IT. We optimized that to get the maximum from the investments we made," Kerrison said. "We sort of treated our stacks like a software release."


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