Big Blue builds on grid and grow plan

IBM has added 15 more grid-approved partners – including two Canadian firms — as it aims to spread the technology from researchers into the enterprise.

Announced at LinuxWorld earlier this month, there are now 60 partners recognized by the company as “Ready for Grid”, a validation that their applications interoperate with IBM’s suite of software and hardware products for grid computing.

IBM’s Grid and Grow program, which was launched last August, is a packaged set of software, hardware and services designed to help companies in industries like the public, industrial and financial sectors.

“It starts with the base hardware built around the IBM blade servers, and after that it’s all about choice,” said Chris Pratt, manager of strategic initiatives at IBM. Users are able to select from Intel, AMD and IBM to power the blades, added Pratt, and a choise of Linux, Windows or IBM’s AIX operating systems.

“On top of that would be a grid scheduler — which manages the distribution of the workload across the grid — with a choice between different vendors like (newly-certified parnters) Platform Computing, DataSynapse and Univa,” he said.

Services like implementation, assessing the relevant application to run the grid and training around the basic use of the grid are also included.

David Smith, business development manager at Markham, Ont.-based Platform Computing, which makes middleware, said his firm and IBM are bringing their reseller partners together to create offerings that will bundle “our grid scheduling middleware and IBM’s infrastructure” to target specific markets.

“The majority of resellers, specifically at the regional level, have a very particular orientation to markets and industries,” said Smith. “They have a unique ability to identify the applications that go with grid infrastructure targeted at particular customers’ requirements. Working together with IBM, we are targeting specific resellers to help them accelerate net new opportunities within their various market places.”

But according to IDC Canada analyst Alan Freedman, the market in Canada is very small for grid computing. “In terms of adoption, it’s very low right now but it’s a good strategy to start talking about grids,” said Freedman. “It involves a high degree of infrastructure architecture and networking communications, and right now we do see some interest on the end-user side as people are trying to get a bigger bang from the investment they’ve already made on their server and storage infrastructure.”

However, he added, cost and complexity need to be reduced, and to get critical mass appeal IBM will need its business partners. “It’s going to involve not only pre-sales type of consulting but also implementation services, whether IBM does that in-house or through its vast partner network,” he said. “It certainly involves more than just hardware.”

“Partners bring industry knowledge, skills in specific industries or exposure to areas of business that IBM doesn’t always get,” said Pratt. “They are the ones to look at the functionality that grid and grow brings and match it to the problems or opportunities that their customer base is experiencing.”

Pratt added that the more agile partners will look for opportunities to help customers deploy grid to solve problems. “Rather than reinventing the wheel, partners can spend more time solving the business problem and less time building the grid.”

Cognos is one of the latest ISVs to get the IBM grid and grow stamp of approval. Headquartered in Ottawa, Cognos develops business intelligence and performance management software for the enterprise. Based on Web services architecture, the company’s Cognos 8 product suite is enabled to take advantage of a grid configuration, said Rupert Bonham-Carter, senior director of IBM strategic alliances at Cognos.

“There are several values of a grid environment. It’s a better use of processing power and in a well-orchestrated grid environment, the grid itself can bring up and down services as needed,” said Bonham-Carter.

As the workload increases on the Cognos system, he added, the grid dynamically brings up new services and spreads the load, allowing users to set up the grid to accommodate rising and lowering performance.

“Having a modern architecture that offers the capability of a grid has business value for ISVs and for customers,” he said. “We have lots of customers that use Cognos in this distributive environment. The grid and grow program is pretty new but should a customer choose to start to orchestrate the Cognos environment in a grid fashion, they can do that with no changes to our code.”

Montreal-based Alphinat is another ISV to receive the “Ready for Grid” mark. The company enabled its government solutions portfolio on WebSphere XD, IBM’s J2EE and application server virtualization platform.

According to Alphinat’s COO Philippe Lecoq, the company wanted to make sure its product suite was IBM certified so that “in implementations for large scale clients, be they government, financial institutions or insurance companies, we can leverage the grid enabling capabilities.”

Grid computing is open to all sectors of the market, said Pratt. “It’s about pushing the grid up and down, left and right, anybody who needs a grid can get into the space and start getting the performance and benefits associated with aggregating, sharing and virtualizing their environment and solve complex problems without having to build a specialized infrastructure,” he said.

Pratt added that IBM is working closely with partners in very specific vertical industry niches. “Grid is rapidly coming out of the academic environment and being deployed more in the business environment,” he said.

“Business is impatient, they don’t want to build computer systems, they want to solve their problems.”

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