A point of view on Smarter Computing – Part 2


Below is part 2 of a three-part series relaying my recent interview with IBM Distinguished Engineer and UK and Ireland Systems and Technology Group CTO John Easton on his point of view on Smarter Computing. Part 1 can be found here.

Three pillars of Smarter Computing

Q2. Why do you think the Smarter Computing messaging is now “Security Ready,” “Cloud Ready” and “Data Ready,” and specifically focused on Expert Integrated Systems?

A2. IBM’s Smarter Computing current messaging is, as you say, cloud ready, data ready, security ready. I think what we have seen is that the cloud theme carries on through, so “managing cloud” is the same as “cloud ready.” The design for data, data ready, also carries on through and the focus is now a lot more on security. This is because the threat environment within which we need to operate, both within IBM and our clients, is greater than it has been in the past. Every week or so you will find some big horror story about systems being hacked or data being lost or someone being fined for some compliance or security breach. Therefore security has come higher up the agenda of the CIOs and our clients.

From a systems point of view, security is something our mainframe platform and our Power platform are extremely good at, and it is a differentiator for us. When we have discussions about security with clients who have grown up with a mainframe, they take a lot of security and protection almost for granted because it is just there and you can do things with that platform that you would never dream of doing with an x86 box. Then [when we] speak to someone that has grown up in the x86 Windows world, having used it at university and having a different set of experiences, they are almost shocked by the fact that you can do things with these boxes that they just did not think were possible.

We are starting to see a split between the way that enterprises treat their systems into so-called systems of record and systems of engagement.

  • A system of record is that core critical information system that holds that business-critical data to your enterprise. It is the system you go to in order to find out how your enterprise is doing. It is the system that your client logs into in order to get their bank balance or perform a transaction. These systems need to be absolutely rock solid available. They need to be absolutely secure and compliant and protected. They need to be able to deliver data, where it is required and when it is required reliably. So, the Smarter Computing messaging of data ready, security ready fits the systems of record very well.
  • Systems of engagement are all about engaging with users and engaging with clients. This is a much more dynamic environment; for example, the marketing department wants to run a new ad campaign, needs to stand up a new website, [or] maybe it needs to put up a new shopping portal to respond to a threat from a competitor. They want to do things very, very quickly and very dynamically. They do not want to have to worry about whether the infrastructure is going to deliver what they want it to do; they just want to focus on the business logic.

So, by going down the Pure patterns deployment route, whether you are looking at IBM PureApplication System or PureFlex System, you can deploy the infrastructure for that website and…deploy the new service to your users much quicker, much more reliably using the systems and engagements dynamic model. This is where you start to see why there is a Smarter Computing systems of records type debate, and this sort of PureSystems of engagement type discussion going on.


Q3. It seems as though the majority of organizations that are actually adopting PureFlex System and using it as their base infrastructure are universities and system integrators. What is your point of view as to why this may be the case? 

A3. Before answering the question it is probably best to qualify what we are talking about here. IBM has announced four things over the course of the last year. We announced Flex Systems, which are the component bits. You can buy the component bits and implement as you like. We announced PureFlex System, which is a defined package of those component bits with some management to give an infrastructure as a solution, infrastructure as a service type offering. We announced the PureApplication System, which is the platform as a service type delivery, and then in October 2012 we announced the PureData boxes, which is data as a service type. So, we have these four offerings, and one of the challenges I think we find is that for many IBMers and for many clients, they believe Flex System and PureFlex System are one and the same thing, and actually they are different.

Now, [regarding] universities and system integrators: I do not have the stats to back this up; however, I think I can understand the system integrator take up. We are also seeing a lot of interest from managed service providers, and you will probably find that the system integrator and the managed service provider are interested in this because what they want to do is stand up services to their clients more quickly. So effectively they are offering a cloud type service, and PureFlex System gives them the ability to stand up these cloud services, which then enables them to install their applications much more quickly and reliably than they could do in the past. So I think I understand system integrators and managed service providers taking it for these reasons. I have not necessarily seen many examples of universities, but I think what you probably find is that it is all about delivering infrastructure services more rapidly than anything else.

So why are these industries more applicable currently? I think one of the challenges that we have with Pure [Systems] and the idea of an integrated system is that many of our clients’ enterprises are not currently set up to take advantage of it. What they have is an IT organization that is separated out, for example, into a server tier, storage tier and networking tier. The idea of having one integrated box that does the server, the storage and the networking does not fit the way that their organization is currently set up. This was initially apparent with BladeCenter too. Putting all the bits in one chassis is very difficult for a lot of organizations to adopt because it does not fit the way that they currently work.

Now we are starting to see some organizations that are a little more forward-thinking actually building a separate team to be responsible for running these integrated systems. As IBM brings these integrated systems out or Cisco brings integrated systems out or Oracle brings integrated systems out, the value of the integrated system, and the fact that you are simplifying the management and all the other sort of stuff, demonstrates how integrated systems help drive your costs down, but only if you have an organization that can actually adopt it. That is why I think we are starting to see organizations building a separate team to run these integrated systems, and if they show that it can be done successfully, [they will] go forward and start dissolving their current siloed structures to better adopt what integrated systems offer.

Stay tuned for part 3, the final segment of my interview with John Easton, which follows on with the PureSystems connection to Smarter Computing, specifically around common use cases, and considers future IT industry trends related to Smarter Computing.

Siobhan Nicholson currently works as a Client Technical Advisor for Consumer Product accounts within the UK. This includes building an understanding of client environments, identifying technical challenges, and leveraging IBM’s technical resources for the benefit of clients. You can find Siobhan on Twitter @SUN_gator and LinkedIn.

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