IBM on Wednesday unveiled PureSystems, a converged infrastructure architecture that combines the company's server, storage, networking, and management technologies into a single integrated platform.
Big Blue also said that over 125 different ISVs, including nearly all the leading software developers except arch rival Oracle, have introduced 150-plus applications that have been optimized to work with its PureSystems.
IBM has invested three years and $2 billion in developing PureSystems, expecting it to change IT in the same way the cell phone changed communications, said Mike Riegel, vice president of ISVs, developers, startups, and academic programs at IBM.
"When you get a cell phone, you don't think about how the camera is integrated into the motherboard, or how the motherboard is integrated with the power supply," Riegel said. "It just happens."
With PureSystems, IBM is wading into an intense competition aimed at determining which company owns the data center at a time when customers are looking to move ever-larger parts of their IT operations to the cloud.
Converged infrastructure is a way to integrate multiple IT technologies, such as servers, storage, networking equipment, virtualization, and/or software applications into a larger solution.
Converged infrastructures offer a number of advantages over best-of-breed solutions. For instance, they are either integrated by a single vendor or built according to a vendor's pre-designed templates, making them much easier to deploy than a solution that needs to be assembled from multiple vendors' products in the field. Converged infrastructure solutions also provide customers with "one throat to choke" for service, repairs, updates, and patches.
IBM's PureSystems is a rack system containing IBM Power-based or Intel x86-based blade servers. It also contains storage, networking, and choice of a Windows, Linux, or Unix operating system, Riegel said. The platform allows customers to configure thousands of virtual machines.
The PureSystems configurations are predicated on platform experience IBM has gained over thousands of customer engagements, Riegel said.
"We've built that experience into the configuration and management of PureSystems," he said. "So customers get a complete experience, and can achieve a level of skill and integration from IBM based on all the experience of our engineers."
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That expertise has also been shared with over 125 different ISVs, including Microsoft, SugarCRM, Infor, Red Hat, SAP, and Siemens that have over 150 applications ready to go for PureSystems at launch, Riegel said.
"We let ISVs look at typical customer deployments and requirements on PureSystems and put that experience into their application design to ensure their performance is optimized for the system," he said.
Indeed, Riegel said, the only major ISV not preparing applications for PureSystems is Oracle.
That is no surprise. Oracle develops what it calls engineered systems, which tightly integrate its application software and middleware to the server and storage hardware it got with its 2010 acquisition of Sun Microsystems.
That has resulted in Oracle's release of integrated appliances, including its Exadata database appliance and its Exalytics Intelligence Machine for memory analytics, both of which would compete directly against IBM's PureSystems when configured with applications such as IBM's DB2 or Microsoft's SQL database software or SAP's business analytic software.
"We're open," Riegel said. "Oracle requires customers purchase their hardware and application stack. The only way to get maximum performance is to get their application stack. Our customers are excited to have a range of operating systems and over 150 applications."
The PureSystems also targets Cisco's UCS technology, which marries Cisco's high-end blade servers with its networking expertise into a tightly-integrated platform.
"Cisco in many cases doesn't include storage in the stack," Riegel said. "And it is limited to Intel-based servers."
IBM expects customers to be able to significantly cut deployment time of their IT infrastructures, Riegel said.
A typical project deployment might require two to three months to procure the servers, storage, networking, and applications, followed by two to three week to integrate the hardware, and a few weeks to deploy the applications, he said.
"So it can take up to six months," he said. "With PureSystems, just order it, and pick an ISV application from a catalog of business-to-business solutions. The app can be downloaded and deployed in four hours. So customers go from a six-month deployment to getting an integrated system in six to ten days, with applications ready to go in two weeks."
PureSystems is also designed from the outset for cloud with the ability for applications to run between on-premise and cloud infrastructures, Riegel said.
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"Customers can take an app running in their data center and move it to the IBM SmartCloud at the press of a button," he said. "Apps can be optimized to run seamlessly on the cloud or on-premise. Ninety percent of our customers plan to be running on the cloud within three years."
PureSystems currently only offers seamless interoperability with the IBM SmartCloud, but IBM expects other cloud providers to provide similar interoperability with PureSystems in the future, Riegel said.
Over 500 systems integrators and solution providers have been fully trained to work with PureSystems, Riegel said.
"This is the single largest number of partners ever trained at launch for a new system," he said. "This is a huge opportunity for our partners to take advantage of a new category of expert systems."
Two configurations of the PureSystems are available starting this week, with other versions slated to be released over time.