IBM Pushing Clusters for Midmarket Businesses

The company brings Windows to its HPC clusters, and announces a partnership with Microsoft, and plans to partner with ISVs to produce applications for life science and financial companies.

IBM is looking to expand its high-performance computing product offerings with an eye toward gaining traction in the midmarket space.

The IT giant, based in Armonk, N.Y., is announcing on Feb. 28 several new software applications for its Cluster 1350 product line that are aimed at midmarket companies such as financial institutions, CAE firms and life science companies.

In addition, the company will announce on Feb. 28 a new partnership with Microsoft to create cluster solutions for IBM-based HPC clusters using the Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 operating system.

Since it started offering HPC clusters, IBM has used open-source Linux technology. In going after midmarket businesses, the company wanted to offer additional flexibility in its cluster line to reach this specific group of customers, said Wendy McGee, the program director for the IBM Cluster Solutions division.

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About 70 percent of clusters run Linux operating systems, McGee said, so IBM will continue to offer HPC solutions with open-source technology. However, the company also felt it needs to offer Windows, she said.

"We spent hours finding out what customers want," McGee said. "In most clusters, you are running Linux, but the midmarket needed some additional flexibility. We decided to use Windows to address the needs of the midmarket."

Since it started creating HPC clusters for its customers, IBM has expanded the hardware offerings within the Cluster 1350 line. Customers can orders systems with hardware from the System x, System p, BladeCenter and System Storage lines.

In addition, IBM offers processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, as well as its own Power processors.

Along with the addition of the Windows operating system for its clusters, IBM is working with ISVs to develop applications for different midmarket businesses that will run with either Windows or Linux.

For example, IBM is working with Accelrys, an ISV that specializes in creating software for pharmaceutical, biotechnology and chemical research firms, to develop HPC applications for life sciences companies.

IBM is working with other ISVs to develop CAE applications. Working with Microsoft, IBM is developing a cluster offering that targets financial companies and uses Office Excel 2007.

"We really think theres a huge opportunity for us to have the clusters and application used on trading floors, where theres a need to analyze large amounts of data," McGee said.

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In addition to its new partnership with Microsoft, IBM said it would open four new "benchmarking" centers for its HPC clusters, with facilities in New York, North Carolina, Oregon and France.

Finally, IBM said it would start a program called "HPC ValueNet" for the companys partners as way to sell more clusters and software applications through its channel and to bolster its own direct sales.

These new clusters products are available immediately, according to IBM.

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