IBM Reveals New Servers, Storage Solutions Designed For Building Hybrid Clouds

IBM revealed Monday a new breed of servers and storage solutions geared to power cloud environments that it will show off to customers and partners later this week at its Edge2015 conference in Las Vegas.

The new products include the three latest servers in IBM's Power Systems line, as well as storage and big data solutions IBM expects to advance its position as a hybrid cloud leader.

Edge2015 is "quite a gathering of new content for those clients looking to move through the various steps to a cloud model, whether it be public cloud or some hybrid infrastructure," Doug Balog, general manager of IBM Power Systems, told CRN.

[Related: IBM Earnings: Revenue Decline Translates To High Margins]

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Also, to speed customer adoption, IBM announced that it will change its software licensing models for some middleware products and is offering a free trial period for a service that allows developers to access the Bluemix Platform-as-a-Service.

Balog told CRN that IBM's focus is on helping clients connect their "systems of record" -- those that store corporate data and process transactions, on- or off-premise -- with the "systems of insight," which allow flexible user interactions and nimble development.

"It's a marriage of work that’s done in a public cloud, and connecting that work with back-office business applications, systems of record, is really the theme of all of this," Balog said.

The three new Power Architecture systems to be previewed at Edge, which runs through Friday, in many ways complete IBM's server line transition to the POWER8 chip architecture -- 12-core processors IBM started shipping about a year ago, Balog told CRN.

"It's really the broadest portfolio and quickest time to transition that we've had, that I remember," Balog said.

The E880 is the most powerful of the bunch -- IBM scaled the server up from eight to 16 sockets for a total of 192 cores.

That box, which comes with 16 TB of memory, is designed to run complicated transactions for the likes of banks, telcos and government agencies.

To the midmarket, IBM is offering the E850, a 4-socket system that integrates some of the efficiency and design points of its pricier sibling. The E850 allows resources to be managed based on spikes and drops in usage and also offers the enterprise the resiliency that businesses require, Balog said.

"From a channel perspective, E850 is going to be a really good alignment for selling into midsize clients who are looking for a system to run their entire firm in one footprint," Balog told CRN.

IBM will also unveil at Edge2015 its PurePower converged system, designed to enable rapid and secure deployment of OpenStack clouds.

"Clients can spend less time putting together the pieces and getting more value out of the system they bought," he said of PurePower.

Lief Morin, CEO of Key Info, an IBM partner and data center operator in Los Angeles, told CRN that last year's advent of the POWER8 microprocessors was a major leap forward, and the new servers are an important evolutionary step in advancing that technology.

"This keeps the market momentum going for IBM, delivering on the road map they've said they are going to follow. They're continuing to deliver new innovations and maintaining price performance," Morin said.

The POWER8 microprocessor architecture was revolutionary because it was the first of IBM's decades-old Power Systems line that could run Linux without forcing developers to port their code, according to Morin.

The new "form-factors and flavors" give customers a "reason to continue to look at the POWER8 architecture and builds confidence in the overall Power Systems in general," Morin told CRN.

IBM has also been driving its storage solutions aggressively since consolidating the business under the Storage Spectrum brand last year.

At Edge, Big Blue will reveal Spectrum Control Storage Insights, a software-defined storage product for optimizing on-premise storage infrastructure. The technology is intended to simplify data management, add visibility and monitoring, and lower the cost of storage by optimizing data placement.

IBM will also demonstrate for partners XIV Gen3, a cloud storage solution with real-time compression, Balog said.

The software-defined storage strategy, driven through products like Spectrum Accelerate and Spectrum Virtualize that enable users to manage heterogeneous storage environments, represent "a pretty interesting approach to the technology," Morin told CRN.

"They disassociated the code base from any dedicated platform. If you are a big company, you have storage you bought, you take this code and load it on that server with some storage, and create your own storage substitute," Morin said.

IBM also plans to release in preview a new archival storage service, being piloted with Iron Mountain, a Boston-based storage management provider, and other partners.

The new server and storage products continue IBM's focus on big data capabilities that the Power line excels at handling. OpenPower servers, built from a version of the architecture IBM has open-sourced, will soon be deployed in the company's SoftLayer public cloud, Balog told CRN.

To ease adoption and migration between on-premise and public cloud environments, IBM has implemented monthly software licensing for its WebSphere Application Server middleware products and plans to put up a self-service portal for partners and clients to manage their software licenses.