POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. — IBM officials say they will attempt to bring common management features and components to its server lines while enriching them with mainframe-like capabilities.
Big Blue spokespeople at a media briefing Tuesday
said the company’s future eServers would share I/O systems and networking tools while differentiating on operating systems like Unix, Linux and IBM’s own AIX. Hypervisor software, which manages the resources among individual server partitions, will also become common between the company’s pSeries and iSeries products, officials said.
In the meantime, IBM will reinvest in its high-end mainframe product, the zSeries, by increasing I/O bandwidth anywhere from four to 10 times, said Rich Lechner, the company’s vice-president of server development. IBM will also offer four times the number of virtual servers, which are becoming more popular among Linux customers, he said.
October marks the second anniversary of IBM’s decision to consolidate its range of server products, which included the AS/400, S/390 and RS/6000, under the eServer brand. This now spans the zSeries at the high end, the mini-mainframe iSeries, the general business pSeries and the Intel-based xSeries (formerly Netfinity). The next stage of that decision, Lechner said, is encouraging its various server teams to work more closely together so that some of the mainframe’s advantages – like capacity utilization, for example — can be driven down to other products in the eServer series.
“”There’s a lot of sharing going on,”” he said, pointing to workload balancing features in the zSeries eServers which will make their way down the line. “”There was some concern when we made this decision that we would lose customers in this transition, but they continue to understand (the product line) and love it, whatever you want to call it.””
In Canada, IBM’s server strategy has been highly successful. According to Alan Freedman, a hardware analyst with IDC Canada, IBM ranked first place overall in the second quarter of this year based on revenue, with 40 per cent of the market. Hewlett-Packard/Compaq, 27 per cent, and Sun Microsystems, 18 per cent, rounded out the top three. “”They’re pretty much always the leader,”” Freedman said. “”It’s the fact that they have a solution and an offering for every type of customer set.””
Susan Puglia, IBM’s vice-president of eServer development, said bringing common management features to the products was important because most enterprise customers use more than one type of server. It also makes sense to ensure that middleware — and therefore applications — can all run on the entire eServer line, she said.
The improvements in its server line are intended to prepare IBM and its customers for the advent of autonomic computing — infrastructure that would essentially configure, optimize and heal itself. A project code-named eLiza is one of the components of that strategy, Puglia said. “”With every economic recession we’ve seen a computing shift,”” she said, from mainframes in the early 1980s to client/server in the 1990s. “”This will now fuel autonomic computing.””
Besides the traditional problems of keeping track of servers, Lechner said customers were not getting nearly enough out of their IT investments. While IBM mainframes can run at anywhere from 75 to 100 per cent capacity, Intel and Unix servers from HP and Sun achieve only 15 per cent capacity, he said. As part of Tuesday’s announcements, IBM released eServer software called AIX 5L Version 5.2 which is designed to improve system utilization by allowing users to divide servers into “”virtual”” servers running Unix or Linux.
Puglia said more customers were choosing Linux as their server OS because the open source community has improved its reliability. This in turn has generated more interest from independent software vendors. “”It’s hard to attract apps to a platform if the volumes aren’t there,”” she said, “”but what will drive adoption is the commercial robustness of Linux.””
IBM also released a software package to managed mixed clusters of Linux and Unix servers. Clustered Systems Management Version 1.3 will provide a single point of control for installing, configuring and maintaining the xSeries.