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IBM Bets On Blade-Mainframe Combo

Blade servers and mainframe technology are playing a vital role in IBM's server consolidation solutions strategy, according to executives at the company.

Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM is pursuing a "Scale Out, Scale Up" strategy that features a combination of BladeCenter servers, z990 and grid technology to help customers increase efficiency and lower IT costs, said Mark Shearer, vice president of IBM eServer products, said during a press briefing Tuesday in Somers, N.Y.

"Clients need to build business models that are more flexible and can handle the ups and downs of the business cycle. Our strategy is to enable these business models," Shearer said.

Traditional server and storage infrastructures are based on three or four levels of technology. For example security on the front end, applications in the middle and data and transaction servers on the back end, according to IBM. Now, combining blade and mainframe products with grid technology enterprises can greatly reduce the IT resources needed to run their business, the executives said.

Shearer cited one recent IBM customer, a large financial institution, as a typical enterprise that wants lots of computing power and is willing to pay for it during a strong economy. But when times are tougher they want to scale back and only pay for what they need. IBM's strategy allows for that scenario, he said.

Toward that solution, the combination of BladeCenter servers and mainframe technology is like the old Reese's television commercials, said Rich Lechner, vice president of marketing and strategy for enterprise servers within the IBM Systems Group.

"It's like 'Hey, you got your peanut butter in my chocolate. Your chocolate is in my peanut butter.' They really do go great together," Lechner said.

Solution providers need to bring that strategy to their customers, Lechner said.

"As I talk to business partners, I stress the importance of understanding Scale Out and Scale Up and how blades and mainframes can be used together, especially with Linux," he said.

Linux adoption is increasing among ISVs and is moving beyond file and Web server applications among end users, he said.

"If you want real benefits, you need to move beyond to data, application integration, virtualization of the network, storage, I/O, etc. There is a massive opportunity for these folks, the resellers and integrators, as well as the application development community. As we talk to our ISV community, we say if you haven't embraced Linux yet, do that rapidly," he said.

The executives said Linux and the Scale Out, Scale Up strategy is one reason why IBM gained market share in the Unix, Linux and Intel server markets in the second quarter in a Gartner Dataquest report.

According to Gartner, IBM was the only vendor to gain share in all the server segments, compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company captured 30.7 percent of server market share, compared to 28.9 percent for the same period last year.

Last week, IBM executives said the company was increasing rebates for winning new business into HP accounts and Shearer reiterated IBM's quest for more market share today.

He said IBM recently displaced HP at Nissan Diesel Motors in a direct deal. Nissan will use IBM eServer x440 systems to replace PA-RISC-based servers from HP, which will boost performance tenfold while reducing IT costs by 70 percent, he said.

"We try to leverage our breadth of portfolio to go after all competitive installed bases. We're at a strong point in our product cycle across the board," Shearer said. "Our clients are combining different technologies in their IT infrastructure to simplify their operation and to make the infrastructure more variable, more flexible, to adjust to business changes."

At the briefing, IBM also brought in Perry Cliburn, CIO of Hewitt Associates, a $1 billion human resources outsourcing and consulting firm, to detail that company's new grid architecture using BladeCenter and mainframe products, which allows millions of end users to calculate their pensions on demand.

Hewitt Associates selected IBM the BladeCenters running Linux allowed the company to quickly migrate proprietary applications using Smalltalk.

"We didn't want to go back and rewrite those and mess with the Smalltalk application" Cliburn said. "We started working with IBM in February and we went live yesterday. In the first day, one of our clients had 8,000 on-demand pension calls. Our business is based on enrollment. This is our busy season. It was important for us to have implemented this for our enrollment period."

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