IBM's $6 Billion RandD Spend Delivers Systems Efficiency

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2010-07-22

IBM's $6 Billion RandD Spend Delivers Systems Efficiency

Leading up to the release of the new IBM mainframe, the zEnterprise system, eWEEK recently connected with Ambuj Goyal, general manager of the IBM Systems and Technology Group's Development and Manufacturing organization. Goyal offered his perspective on why the company still invests almost $6 billion annually in research and development and how it translates to solving business problems for Big Blue clients.

Goyal is responsible for all of IBM's global server and storage systems hardware and software development. In addition, Goyal leads the company's microelectronics business. He joined IBM in 1982 as a research staff member at the T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, N.Y. And he has held several key leadership positions throughout IBM. Goyal sat down with senior editor Darryl K. Taft for the following interview.

Q: As IBM's general manager of manufacturing and development, what new workload challenges are you tackling to help drive innovation and still cut costs?

A: IBM is tackling a number of workload challenges from data explosion and exploitation to efficient data centers to more secure systems. System workloads are becoming more massive in scale, must consume less energy, floor space and manpower. Workloads also must handle mountains of data and make it easier and less expensive to store, manage and retrieve. Our clients need to turn data into insight they can apply. At the same time, the workloads must be protected against risks that must be predicted and prevented to protect businesses and consumers from privacy breaches, identity theft and fraud. Tall order, but it's actually IBM's sweet spot because of our systems heritage.

We need to consider that data is adding a level of stress with terabytes of structured online data from internal databases to petabytes of unstructured data from Web-based collaboration, smartphone applications and real-time streams from sensors which monitor electrical use, environmental contamination and food shipments.

Making our data centers more efficient requires innovation beyond anything we've ever seen. It begins with systems that are optimized for specific kinds of workloads.  

As more information is digitized, shared and accessed remotely, we will go from online data security and intrusion detection to security analytics for intrusion prediction and prevention. Systems will inherently provide fraud prediction, preventing security breaches from ever taking place. Because IBM innovations are built into at all levels in the stack - from hardware to software to services - we can drive new levels of efficiency, improved management and better automation.

Q: Can you describe the anatomy of a workload optimized system?  Why should companies consider workload requirements in challenging economic times?

A: A workload-optimized environment consists of computerized systems that are optimized for specific kinds of work. It requires innovation and integration at every level from the silicon up through the middleware and application. This is not about putting different packages of software together or combining hardware silos. This is about looking at the whole spectrum of interdependencies, determining how efficient each component can become and finding areas for improvement.  

Workload requirements are important because many IBM clients are working aggressively to navigate the current economic climate. One way is to ensure ongoing business velocity. Our clients are fighting their competitive battles. Like IBM, they are on the front lines to meet new demands and shifts in market dynamics. We need to consider the baseline business objectives and then create a flexible system or systems.

Driving Business Velocity

Q: Can you describe the hallmarks of a flexible system and how that fits into the future of systems? More specifically, can you cite how clients can realistically make this happen without breaking the bank? And how can clients do that when every vendor is promoting migration to their specific systems?  

A: Organizations and vendors must endorse flexibility to drive business velocity. We should consider flexibility in process, attitude and systems architecture. By creating flexible mechanisms we can quickly increase our clients' business velocity. At its core, flexibility is a point of view for how clients can consume and manage IT.  

Currently, the industry is characterized by forced choices and limited client perspective. Standardization and consolidation are strategies that ultimately create rigidity in client environments, leading a limited field of options for both a client and a vendor. If we focus on creating standards -- under the hallmarks of flexibility -- we can then impart smart longterm planning, by avoiding choices that slow business velocity.  

Flexibility is a core strategic competence for any organization concerned with short- and long-term business velocity. Clients who create a systems agenda that maps to evolutionary business development goals are more apt to drive greater benefits from their IT system.

This is most relevant now because our clients are consistently looking for more ways to drive stronger efficiencies at every level of the technology stack.

Q: So how is IBM's proposal any different from the rest of the industry? What role does system software play in the future of data centers?

A: Smarter systems are created by combining technology with efficient systems management that leverages virtualization and automation. Then can our clients obtain greater visibility and control of the entire infrastructure. This is the purpose of IBM Systems Software and its suite of integrated solutions: By centralizing, streamlining and automating system-level management tasks across server, storage and networks, IBM offers systems software solutions to help reduce cost and risk while improving service delivery, in a way that is not possible with conventional approaches to IT management.

IBM Systems Software is fully integrated into the IBM technology portfolio, allowing more effective use of the advanced features in IBM hardware and a rich set of operating system environments. It allows clients to gain greater business value from IT, through the creation of a more capable infrastructure-one that can meet both business challenges and critical IT needs, like platform and energy management, virtualization and availability.

It will take IBM competitors decades before they can match the innovation and development IBM has put into its products.  

Q: Can you provide an example of an IBM customer with a flexible data center?

A: The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, an integrated global health enterprise, sought to lower the cost and complexity of its IT infrastructure to enable the continued investment in next-generation clinical systems. UPMC wanted to lay the foundation for the best possible patient care. Now in the middle of an eight-year strategic partnership with IBM, UPMC is transforming its systems through consolidation, standardization and virtualization -- a key building block of a smarter, more flexible infrastructure.

The initiative has already resulted in the reduction of hundreds of servers across the UPMC network, a more than 220 percent increase in processing capacity without an increase in support staff, significant reduction in IT infrastructure floor space requirements, and faster integration of acquired health-care operations.

By transforming its IT infrastructure through consolidation and virtualization, UPMC is improving the delivery of health care, while reducing operating costs. Changing the link between processing and resource needs has enabled UPMC to combine an ambitious clinical agenda with both a lower rate of IT investment growth and improved reliability.


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