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back to article IBM turns back on server history

As odd as this may seem, IBM is not thinking about servers any more. Well, not in the way you might think. According to the top minds at Big Blue's Systems and Technology Group - which designs and sells its servers, processors, and storage - the future is not about making particular server architectures do jobs and fight for …

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They got it half right...

"IT vendors always have a theme, because they have to tell budget-time stories to CEOs and presidents who don't necessarily know a lot about computers other than how expensive and cranky they can be. (Actually, that's the system administrators, but that is a different story...)"

Right on the first part. Only sometimes right on the second part (I should know; I'm be one of them from time to time). Though in the case of the BOFH, the second part IS always true.

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Why, then...

...would they be looking at acquiring Sun?

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Boffin

Good Idea

Looks very nice.

Stop throwing CPU/RAM and start (anew?) to do things with Intelligence.

Not good for purePPTWarriors, but great for them new

¿project planners/organizers/architects?

I better get my ITIL updated.

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Anonymous Coward

THINK! Servers don't matter, now more than ever . . .

Nothing new here then.

Smart infrastructure is just another fancy monicker for something akin to dynamic infrastructure or on demand. A marketing positioning concept name du jour that fits current times . . . .

To perhaps help win stimulus dollars.

Engineers have always been cleverly creating hybrid solutions, so what's so very new about this?

Perhaps Tom Bradicich and IBM STG x86 x64 server business are looking to to futures to try and change the game to help explain away their lack of market leadership and rapid progress in standard x86 and x64 servers against HP after such a very long time trying?

There's nothing like changing the groundrules and taking minds off the facts.

HP are king of this area and after a slow start besting IBM on blades after IBM's many and seemingly ongoing blade hiccups.

Though I do agree that we need several orders of magnitude of performance improvement, compute, store and communicate to resolve many real-time problems that the world would like to compute.

IBM GS have had great success with hybrid solutions approach and it helps to explain their continued success.

But there is a danger here, going all the way back to Watson's alleged early comment that there is probably only a market for six or so computers.

The moment that IBM think that servers themselves and the compute concept are unimportant and change their focus to hybrid as a get out clause is exactly the moment when they leave the door open of fortress IBM to a strong competitor or new technology upstart who can slip in and steal the iBM hegemony. IBM don't have a monopoly on thinking.

Just as in storage after an early start they yielded the storage market to the likes of EMC, Hitachi and the like. Word to be done and being done here.

Failure in too many key areas then begins to affect and effect business pull-through of hybrid solutions.

Ok so to be fair IBM are still the biggest (and fairest?) of them all but it only needs a slip as they did with Microsoft in a negotiation to create giant competitors who run off with the pie.

Hybrid and economies of scale aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. Winning server focus and hybrids as tech is writ small and shrinking and applications growth widens may lead to great winning economies not diseconomies of scale.

Its still IBM and the 7 dwarves right now, and only the dwarves have changed . . . for now. . .

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Stop

Old news already

One of the things that IBM is working hard at, according to Bradicich, is making virtualization on servers smarter. "Anyone can move a virtual machine," he says. "But imagine if the system had a coach that could tell you the best way to do it under adverse conditions. To use a football analogy, great quarterbacks are often great not just because they can throw the ball, because they have great coaches that tell them where to throw the ball, and when." Hence, IBM is worrying about adding intelligence to workload management on these future systems.

HP have had this as a purchasable product for a while now, Insight Dynamics. Not only does it do exactly what is written above (and a lot more) but it works on x86/64 virtualisation (all flavours) and the Integrity VSE!

Although I seem to remember IBM banging on about some capacity planning software a while ago now, so whats different about this?

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Bronze badge

ICI, anyone?

I can't help but but be reminded of another once great company that also traded under a TLA beginning with I - ICI. IBM seem to be doing exactly the same thing.

Twenty years ago IBM was a one stop shop for IT infrastructure. You bought PCs made by IBM. They were composed of monitors, disk drives, processors and operating system all made by IBM. The printers and network infrastructure were all also IBM. One by one they have divested themselves of these businesses on the grounds that they couldn't compete, and sold them on or spun them off to people who had no trouble making them work financially. Each time the company has got smaller and more niche and exerted less influence in the industry, culminating in the sale of the desktop PC business to Lenovo.

If they ditch the server business you are left with what is basically a service company that is itself producing nothing to service. It is at the mercy of other players and outside influences and has direct competitors in the form if EDS, Accenture etc. _Then_ they can only compete on price. Eventually they become so niche they are swallowed up by somebody else and IBM becomes nothing more than a brand name for certain services if it does not disappear altogether.

ICI did exactly the same thing, ditching bulk chemical production and other activities, concentrating on increasingly niche activities. Instead of regrouping, learning from their competitors and competing in the marketplace, each time the company retreated and supposedly became more profitable. In reality each time the company simply became smaller and now it no longer exists as an independent entity. So much for maximising shareholder value.

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IT Angle

Is IBM...

Is IBM trying to make the case for buying SUN and their CoolThreads technology, where single socket SPARC T processors have been consistently outrunning x86 and x64 single socket systems by a factor of between 2x-7x in SPECWeb2005 benchmarks for years?

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Anonymous Coward

Brilliant!

Distributed Computing is what this mostly sounds like to me.

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Pirate

is this new?

hybrid systems? sounds rather like the unified infrastructure drum HP have been banging for a couple of years now...

intelligent workload management? ditto for that to.

Seems to me IBM is *late* to this party, not leading the way

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Return of the high performance general system ?

General purpose systems ?

Domain-specific application accelerators ?

Compute-intensive acceleration ?

High-speed, network traffic optimization ?

Hey, maybe we could call them something innovative like, umm, mainframes ?

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Anonymous Coward

@ Chad Larson

They're probably looking at Sun as Sun are already doing this to some degree.

Look at this "Unified Storage Server" concept they have - it's an x86 box masquerading as a storage device.

I personally think this concept could kill off quite a few proprietary "solutions" such as NetApp NAS (unless they see the light and stop charging ridiculous amounts of money for software) and a great deal of proprietary networking kit.

IBM are just taking the idea one step further and coming up with a tag name for it.

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Silver badge

Slingshots at the Ready. Meltdown Barbecue Pyre readied ..... ?

"Its still IBM and the 7 dwarves right now, and only the dwarves have changed . . . for now. . ." ... By Anonymous Coward Posted Saturday 28th March 2009 08:47 GMT

AC,

Don't be betting any money on the Goliath, because there are too many Davids for them to survive in their present colossal form. And for them or the Industry to imagine the opposition/changelings as dwarves, extraordinarily renders them a remarkable Stealth Advantage against which they have no ammunition nor Defence Department..... which would have them as spread eagled and naked in the floor ...and gagged and bound by old servants they server to.

""Anyone can move a virtual machine," ... he [Bradicich] says" ... By Anonymous Coward Posted Saturday 28th March 2009 22:23 GMT

That would only be a compliant VM, AC. A Feisty Renegade Rogue System/Virtual Machine [and you can easily imagine IBM as just a Simply CompleXXXX Virtual machine] would make its own Moves, although that does not in any way disagree with his pronouncement, just as long as you know how to move virtual machines/influence company bosses/IP heads, which of course is just a matter of learning/teaching.

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Unhappy

I hate IBM...

"...it is possible to play Handel's Messiah with 100 accordions..."

Now I'll have to go scrub my brain with lye. Oh the humanity...

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Anonymous Coward

@manfrommars re Goliath

Yes you're right and its a very valid view.

Snow White Drifting!

The sheer scale and size are a continuing problem and the biggest threat to IBM would be a stall of their core business, biggest threat i can see is some hiccup on Power series processors that would impact applications delivery and services which is why running two architectures Power and SPARC maybe a better hedge. Third Intel and you've got it covered.

Agree with you that the biggest threat is a David with a good aim and with a game changing revolutionary bit of new tech. Yes and there are lots of potential Davids and ones will come along out of the blue. Some sort of parallel cellular 'transputer' blended and balanced I/O, compute, store and asynch synch mabe even waferscale? That would be a match for Power and a blend with cellular. Again IBMs best defence; Power, Cellular and SPARC perhaphs?

Looking at it from silicon fab, this is where Fuji may stuggle as they have in disk, the cost bifurcate as the feature size shrinks. Wonder how IBM protect themselves here as Intel increasingly gain advantage with economies of scale and economics of fab?

In thinking of supply side vendorland, go on force yourself, who would be the current 7 dwaves?

The smart infrastructure idea is a brilliant bit of positioning though, IBM or WPP or both?

--

@grumpy, hate is such an unfortunate word and some people may like Handel on an accordion or even on 100!

Humanity, yes. Forget the lye though - stings like hell and makes it worse! You brain seems smart enough already!

Regards

Ray

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Anonymous Coward

Nothing New Here

"...would they be looking at acquiring Sun?"

Patents, patents and more patents. Not to mention killing off so many klugey "open systems" solutions for something that actually works as designed and doesn't have to be patched three times per month.

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