IBM Recruits Partners For Utility Services

IBM is courting application providers in the life-sciences, industrial, automotive, petroleum and electronic-design automation industries to host applications on Blue Gene/L and sell compute capacity to customers, said David Gelardi, vice president of industry solutions for IBM's Systems and Technology Group, Armonk, N.Y.

"The nature of the applications [in those markets] makes sense for a capacity-on-demand sales model," he said. Blue Gene/L has achieved 360 peak teraflops when running a 64-rack system of 130,000 IBM PowerPCs.

And IBM already has signed its first business partner, life-sciences application provider Quantum Bio, to resell the Blue Gene/L capacity.

IBM launched Capacity On Demand in 2003 but mainly was selling compute power on clusters of Intel- and AMD-based servers running Linux. Gelardi said the vendor has about 20 active utility computing customers on these "traditional" technologies, who pay 40 cents to 75 cents per CPU hour for power. In comparison, Sun Microsystems charges $1 per CPU hour for Sun Grid, its utility computing offering.

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Renting time on Blue Gene/L costs substantially more—about $10,000 for a week's worth of usage, Gelardi added.

Solution providers said the targeted verticals under IBM's new initiative are logical for utility computing, although they also opportunity in other segments.

"It's really tuned for verticals," said Joe Vaught, principal of PCPC. Vaught said the Houston-based VAR is working with IBM to set up an on-demand computing center at PCPC's headquarters that will serve customers with graphic-intensive computing needs, such as those using CAD and 3-D or 4-D animation.

Others say finding specific, practical applications is key to selling the utility idea. "We're hearing a lot about [utility computing] from the corporate level—the secret is, how do we get the practical traction in the field?" said John Freres, president of Meridian IT Solutions, a network integrator in Schaumburg, Ill.