IBM PureSystems Change the IT Cost-Value Equation

How much of your IT budget goes to keeping the systems up and running versus how much you can devote to new business building projects? If yours is like most you probably spend more than 70% of your IT budget keeping the systems running, and most of that gets sucked up by labor. That leaves, at best, about 30% to spend on new initiatives, which is where the company’s next competitive advantage is likely to come from.

To flip the situation around, IBM this week unveiled a family of what it describes as expert integrated systems called PureSystems. The first two are PureFlex and PureApplication. IBM calls these expert systems because it has baked into the system large amounts of automated best practices around the majority of the processes for which most organizations need systems, whether web applications, database applications, or almost anything else a company might do.

These are, according to Rod Adkins, senior vice president in charge of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group, “a new category of business computing that combines server, storage and networking resources along with an array of built-in software patterns and business processes into one highly automated and simple-to-manage machine.” Essentially, IBM is introducing a pre-configured hardware/software appliance, which is not new.

The difference is what IBM added. Beyond the usual middleware and integration it baked in deep expertise. This expertise greatly expertise simplifies the process of setting up and deploying new systems combined with automated operation and workload optimization that leverages the expertise to determine the best ways to configure and deploy each workload. This reduces the labor and time entailed in designing, deploying, configuring, and administering the new systems, which lowers cost and speeds time to value. This is how the new systems change the IT cost-value equation.  Optimization also lowers costs by saving on license fees and conserving IT resources through higher utilization.

IBM estimates that a PureSystems machine can be running in four hours versus weeks if IT wanted to do it itself. IBM calculates PureSystems requires 47% less deployment labor hours and 73% fewer management hours compared to conventional systems.

This isn’t as costly a product as you probably imagine.  The entry PureFlex System starts at $100,000. A recent report put competing integrated hardware/software appliances at $750,000 or more. The entry level PureFlex can handle a midsize organization, and it painlessly scales as the organization grows.

It also changes the way you can think about IT staffing. You will need fewer system administrators. With so much of the IT process automated your people can focus on using IT to support new initiatives, which they can deploy in hours, not days, weeks, or months.

Maybe the most innovative part of PureSystems is the idea of patterns. Patterns are a staple of software development but PureSystems take the idea further.  These patterns are built-in software that encapsulates systems expertise so that the systems can automatically handle basic, time-consuming tasks such as configuration, upgrades, and application requirements. ISVs will offer specialized patterns and there is a toolkit any organization can use to build a custom pattern encapsulating a special process.

PureSystems also builds cloud computing right into the machine, enabling it to be a private cloud out of the box. Organizations can quickly create private, self-service, multi-platform cloud offerings that can scale up and down automatically.

Noted Steve Mills, IBM senior vice president of software and systems: “By tightening the connections between hardware and software, and adding invaluable software know-how, PureSystems is designed to help organizations free up time and money to focus on innovation.”

Other vendors offer specialized combo hardware and software bundles: Oracle has Exadata and Exalogic; NetApp and Cisco offer FlexPod; EMC, Cisco, and VMware collaborated to create VCE, which offers VBlock; and HP offers its converged infrastructure. Each vendor has its supporters. PureSystems, however, delivers expert yet customizable patterns, broad cross-platform capabilities, and the ability to handle whatever new technologies come out in the next decade through an unusually flexible virtualized architecture.

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