IBM Enlists VARs To Help Smaller Businesses Virtualize


IBM on Wednesday expanded its Consolidation Discovery and Analysis Tool, known as CDAT, with the ability for solution providers to tap into IBM resources to help them assess whether businesses with less than 50 servers can benefit from server consolidation, said Rich Lechner, vice president of IT optimization for the vendor.

CDAT is a tool that IBM has made available to solution providers since 2001 for collecting information on servers and their processors, memory, disk utilization, and other factors, Lechner said.

What's new is that once solution providers collect that information using the tool, they can send the data to IBM which then provides a proposal for how best to virtualize the customer's server environment, including whether virtualization is needed at all, and which servers should -- and should not -- be virtualized, he said.

"Solution providers using CDAT get access to IBM's consolidation skills," he said. "Before, they had to rely on their own knowledge and experience."

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IBM will now use its experience with thousands of server virtualization projects to suggest which servers are candidates for consolidation, Lechner said. "We've had thousands of engagements so far," he said. "So we have a huge knowledge base of real-world experience, not a theoretical model."

CDAT identifies which servers could be scaled to blade servers or IBM's PowerPC-based servers, and which should not be consolidated, Lechner said. For instance, he said a server that is highly utilized for 20 percent to 30 percent of the time with a peak utilization rate of over 80 percent a couple times a day or week probably would not be flagged for consolidation.

Craig Plants, an account executive at Mainline Information Systems, a Tallahassee, Fla.-based IBM solution provider, said that while CDAT gives the data needed to help determine whether and how to consolidate a smaller business' server environment, it is still up to the solution provider to help customers with the process.

"It all depends on your sales knowledge and engineering skills," Plants said. "But CDAT gives you data you need to make a decision."

While CDAT works in smaller businesses and enterprises, it is especially helpful for customers who have at least 15 servers, Plants said. However, it might work with smaller environments as well, he said.

IBM charges solution providers a base price of under $500 to do the assessment of data collected by CDAT, Lechner said. "It's not a profit service," he said.

It's not necessarily a profit service for solution providers, either, Plants said. "Some partners might charge customers for it," he said. "I don't. We look at it as a sales tool. We can use the data from CDAT for the sales proposal. It's worth its weight in gold."

Tony Madden, senior vice president and general manager of the IBM Solution Group at Avnet Technology Solutions, a distributor that works with about 750 IBM solution providers in the U.S. and Canada, called CDAT a very effective tool for partners who do not have the expertise to do these detailed assessments on their own.

Avnet also has its own similar offering, the Server Consolidation Assessment Tool, which works in heterogeneous environments, Madden said.

"Our technology was developed independently, but comes to the same conclusion," he said. "CDAT is for IBM-only environments, and is well-supported and well-understood there. VARs using CDAT get IBM support. Our design doesn't compete with IBM's, but it supplements what IBM offers."