IBM touts infrastructure simplification

IBM is pushing a new set of provisioning technologies and lower-cost Linux-based blade servers to help IT managers deal with cost-cutting pressures and a desire to scale up processing for compute-intensive tasks on an as-needed basis.

At an "infrastructure simplification" briefing held in Somers, New York, Tuesday, IBM executives pointed out how more than 1,000 of its customers are using IBM technologies to more effectively provision processing-intensive applications from mainframes to clusters of Linux-based blade servers -- such as seismic calculations for petrochemical companies and derivatives calculations at Wall St. securities firms.

For instance, Hewitt Associates LLC, a Lincolnshire, Ill.-based human resources outsourcing and consulting firm, needed a cost-effective way of providing pension projections to the 5.3 million employees it serves, said Perry Cliburn, the company's CIO. In February, it had a Smalltalk-based calculation engine built to run on its IBM zSeries CICS environment in Sysplex.

But the calculation engine consumed about 1,000 MIPS when customer demand was high, and some of the calculations are more compute-intensive than others, said Cliburn.

To reduce the CPU load, Hewitt Associates implemented 10 IBM blade servers with a DB2 client running under Linux to power the calculation engine. The system, which went into production on Monday with Hewitt's first customer, is expected to end up being 90 percent cheaper to run on the blade servers than on the zSeries processors, said Cliburn.

Another IBM customer that has shifted a growing portion of its processing demand to blade servers is Nyfix, a Stamford, Conn.-based firm that processes and executes anywhere from 400 million to 1.2 billion shares of stock per day for New York Stock Exchange member firms.

This week, Nyfix plans to build 50 applications to process and execute trades for New York-based Cantor Fitzgerald LP to run across a mix of Sun Microsystems Inc. Unix-based blade servers and IBM Linux-based blade servers, said Jim Strasenburgh, director of computer services at Nyfix.

To date, "there's a small number" of companies that have taken steps to simplify their IT infrastructures and redirect data flows on an as-needed basis, said Clay Ryder, executive vice president and chief operating officer at The Sageza Group Inc., a Mountain View, Calif.-based market research firm. Further adoption of these techniques will likely be driven by industrywide server consolidation efforts and competitive comparison, said Ryder.

"If Nike does it and cites great cost savings, then Reebok's going to notice," he said.

To help customers redirect data flows between various computing environments, IBM is planning on introducing a set of intelligent provisioning tools in mid-October, said Mark Shearer, vice president of IBM eServer Products. The product set, code-named Symphony, draws off of technologies that IBM acquired from Tivoli and Think Dynamics.

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