IBM rolls out first Internet-based utility service

Trying to take its computing on demand initiative a giant step forward, IBM Corp. on Monday rolled out an Internet-based service that allows Linux users to access the amount of processing power and other technical resources they need on a utility basis.

The new on-demand service, called Linux Virtual Services, directly connects users' Linux-based server applications with IBM's hosting centers that can supply them with managed server processing, storage and networked capacity on an on-demand basis.

These "virtual servers" in IBM's hosting centers run on the company's zSeries of mainframes and require users to only pay for the capacity they need. The servers are administered by IBM's Global Services unit.

IBM officials hope that what attracts users to the new service will be the up front savings of having to buy additional hardware to accommodate the new software infrastructure necessary to run an e-business.

"We think this is good for people looking at having to invest in new hardware, but it is also good for those users that do not have a mainframe now and would have to invest in training their IT personnel to acquire mainframe skills," a company spokesperson said.

One end user account that appears to be impressed by the new service is the Wisconsin Physicians Service Insurance Corp. (WPS), one of the larger Medicare carriers in the country. Recently, WPS had consolidated its e-mail, Web and directory applications from about 25 widely dispersed Linux to a single IBM mainframe. The mainframe now processes approximately 370,000 claims a day, a WPS spokesperson said.

"The eServer is going to help us to consolidate a couple of dozen Linux servers onto a single machine. I think the (Linux) Virtual Services can take this capability up a notch by offering more flexibility to add capacity as our business needs dictate," said Jim Hwang, WPS's director of Enterprise Network Systems.

What governs the basic functions of Virtual Services is an IBM technology that can carve out virtual servers from a zSeries system by partitioning the processing, storage and network capacity for each individual user.

By isolating individual demand on the system, the technology can map resources to that demand while at the same time be able to offer the same level of separation among users that a physical server could.

In addition to the savings associated with not having to buy additional hardware, IBM officials contend that users can also save by consolidating workloads to a central server, thereby increasing performance and reliability and also cutting down on costs associated with the administration and maintenance of widely dispersed servers.

Under the new service, users can purchase on-demand processing power by the "service unit." A service unit is a measure that equates to the processing power being utilized, a company spokesman said. And because service units are base on a user's anticipated demand, it eliminates the need to over deploy capacity, thereby saving users money on capacity not being used.

IBM also contends that Linux Virtual Services can help users quicken the speed of operations tied to their core technologies through a rapid service deployment capability. Users will have the ability to deploy additional servers within minutes once the initial service has been activated, a spokesman explained.

Services include a 10 per cent additional processing capacity per virtual server at no charge. This allows users to subscribe to the service based on their capacity requirements while still being able to accommodate unexpected surges in demand. Users also have the right to purchase added capacity for scheduled workload peaks including batch processing operations.

Users can learn more about the new service by going to www.ibm.com/services .

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