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IBM PureSystems Converge RISC and x86, Network And Storage

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

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IBM’s converged data centre entry attempts to package up expertise as well as hardware

IBM has leapt into the market for converged data centre hardware, but combined it with expertise encapsulated in “patterns” that should reduce installation and integration time.

IBM’s PureSystems – billed as Big Blue’s biggest announcement for more than 20 years, and previously known within the company as Project Troy – combine Intel x86 servers and IBM’s own Power RISC processors with network and storage in pre-configured chassis systems for data centres, that support database and web applications, and can switch between public and private cloud.

Standard AND bespoke?

At present, systems are brought in, then configured and integrated, or else they are appliances tuned to one task, or cloud-based services, explained IBM’s UK CEO Stephen Leonard (pictured):  “Pure doesn’t replace these, but it does overcome all the weaknesses.”

Although there are already converged systems, including Cisco UCS, and HP Matrix  and the collaborative vBlock project from HP, VMware and Microsoft, these approaches are proprietary, are not tightly integrated and lack a coherent management structure, said Leonard.

The PureSystems servers are described as “expert integrated systems”, a phrase intended to describe systems with “real engineering integration” and “built-in expertise”, according to Leonard. In other words, these are fully integrated hardware systems, which on arrival only need the user to plug in eight cables (four power, four data), and yet they are nevertheless open.

The whole thing took $2 billion, four years and collaboration between 30 laboratories in 17 countries, Leonard told the London PureSystems launch. It covers current hot technologies, as future versions will support Hadoop for big data, and the whole thing can use 43 percent less energy than comparable systems, by converging more servers onto a single data centre floor tile.

For IBM, the biggest trick to pull off here was to combine its acknowledged services and hardware strengths, while still presenting these systems as part of the new world where hardware is supposed to be a commodity and systems are supposed to work without extended hand-holding.

Combining SSD and HDD, Power and x86

IBM did not go into much hardware detail at the London launch, preferring to focus on the packaged-expertise side of the story.

The PureFlex and PureApplications units fit in a standard 10U high chassis, and can hold horizontal server nodes, as well as blades. They also include 10GB Ethernet and Fibre Channel on Ethernet switches which are made by a switch partner who TechWeekEurope was told could be one or more of Cisco, Juniper and Brocade.

Servers are a mix of IBM’s x86 based Xeon  systems, and its Power systems which use its own RISC processor. These will run Linux or IBM’s AIX, and are virtualised using VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V (the Xeon nodes) or IBM’s own PowerVM hypervisor on the Power nodes.

In due course the Linux KVM hypervisor will be available on both server families.

Above all that is, of course, IBM’s full panoply of middleware. The machines are designed for virtualised “internal cloud”, but come with the basics of IBM’s SmartCloud software, so the systems can potentially be part of hybrid cloud systems bursting to a public cloud.

The storage is based on IBM’s own StorWize V7000 unified storage system, and combines solid-state and hard drives. Pre-configuration saves 98 percent of the implementation time for storage, said IBM’s UK CTO Graham Spittle (pictured).

The PureFlex system includes the Flex System Management module, which can also be accessed through its own GUI, managing the whole shebang, or else using IBM’s Tivoli or other management platforms.

The PureApplication machines run IBM’s DB2 database and web servers for preference, along with “patterns of expertise”, designed to offer pre-encapsultated applications, either provided by IBM, or downloaded from a kind of uber-AppStore, called the PureSystem Centre.

IBM was cagey about prices, only saying that the PureApplication machine contained 6.4TB of SSD and 48TB of HDD RAM, and could scale from 96 cores to 608 cores.

PureFlex on the other hand, is available in infinitely variable configurations, but according to a widely circulated graphic, ranges from $100,000 to $300,000 with the following options. Servers are extra, and cost something like what they would cost in normal IBM blade systems.

What does this mean to the channel?  Get over to ChannelBiz to find out!