In the Wheelhouse: IBM PureFlex Solution for IBM i Casts a Wider Net

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In this edition, we'll cover IBM's PureFlex Solution for IBM i, specifically focused toward the SMB market. Plus, IBM announces more Power Linux Centers in New York and Austin along with proposed Linux KVM support in 2014.


Get Ready for a Data Center in a Can...SMB Style

With running themes of "integration by design" and a "simplified experience," IBM PureSystems has been a relative hit in the worldwide server community, shipping over 4,000 units since its announcement just over a year ago. The fundamental characteristics of the AS/400 and now IBM i on Power Systems that inspired the descriptors for the IBM PureSystems family have come full circle as IBM announced the IBM PureFlex Solution for IBM i.


As per the PureFlex Solution for IBM i website:


Small and midsized businesses need to focus on running the business, not running IT. You need affordable systems that you can rely on to run your business, systems that support the applications you need, protect your data and help serve your customers.


The IBM PureFlex Solution for IBM i can help you meet this need. Instead of maintaining multiple rack or tower systems, you can run your business in a single footprint consisting of a mix of server technologies and workloads including both POWER and x86 based compute nodes. The IBM PureFlex Solution for IBM i can be the perfect alternative to complex distributed environments reaping the benefits of centralized management and resource sharing.


Chief Architect Steve Will says this in the promotional video for the PureFlex Solution for IBM i:


Before the PureFlex system, the customer would have to plan with many different vendors, across many different tools, to buy and then implement their technology. This costs time and money in planning and in implementation. It really was a waste compared to what they could do with a PureFlex system.


You'll also want to check out Steve Will's blog, where guest blogger Jeff Howard, IBM's Vice President of Marketing for PureFlex Systems, gives some insight into the reasoning and history behind the need for an SMB- and IBM i-geared PureFlex system.


I've mentioned a number of times in the last year about a PureSystems option for IBM i customers in the mid-market space. The question I've most heard is regarding the tipping point for moving from a Power Systems and x86-64 environment to PureSystems. After many conversations with IBMers and IBM Business Partners, that answer was a little hard to pinpoint. Up until now, shops with middle-tier Power Systems machines and a small x86-64 server farm really didn't have a great idea what the stepping stone into the Pure family was. How do you market the original PureSystems solutions to a high portion of IBM i customers? The option didn't exist. Actually, according to the specs I've heard through word of mouth, it still doesn't really exist for a lot of the smaller Power 720 customers using a couple of cores...but it's getting very much closer. This solution, to me, is technically more on the mid-size business level because I heard it's two eight-core POWER7+ processors in the P10 software tier with all 16 cores active and the ability to scale to double that size, meaning four processors and 32 cores. While these are much bigger pants to wear for the majority of IBM i customers in the Power 720 range, this PureFlex edition opens up an option to many more IBM i and Power Systems customers wanting to consolidate down to one small footprint.


The acquisition cost into the Pure family is also brought down significantly. IBM doesn't have any publishable numbers I can point you to, but the scuttlebutt coming out of the IBM Edge conference is that it's a fairly deep discount with a built-in five days worth of help from IBM Lab Services. As someone who's taken advantage of IBM Lab Services a few months ago, I can attest that they're worth the price. Given that this is a specialized system and fairly new in the marketplace, the use of IBM Lab Services would be recommended even if they weren't included by default as part of the deal. With Lab Services, it's almost like guaranteeing a success in implementation and the training of your staff because the experts are holding your hand through it.


The fact that IBM is bringing a lower-end PureFlex system to market is great news as it has a better chance for adoption due to the much wider net being cast, which would help strengthen and grow IBM i in the marketplace. If you're reading this article, then that's important to you. And hey, it's a great system. The ability to run IBM i, AIX, Power Linux, x86-64 Linux, and Windows all in the same chassis? The shared storage and networking with the management tools, virtualization, and all the trimmings? Nobody else builds a machine that gets close to those kinds of options.


What I'd like to see would be the next step in the PureFlex family, a system for the IBM i bread and butter: Power 720 customers with only a handful of Power cores needing activation and the ability to support up to 20–25 x86-64 servers. As the cost of manufacturing PureSystems goes down, perhaps we'll eventually see something like that in the future. With the push to consolidate or cloud, the real value of future systems is the integration, consolidation, simplification, energy's the modern "do more with less." Every customer wants the ability to tune up an operating instance pre-configured for a workload and to manage it with less effort and less staff. So stay tuned. Once the official specs and prices have been released, I'll be sure to talk about them in detail.

And Power Linux Too!

And speaking of good news about all things Power, IBM also announced that the next Power Linux Centers (yes, there's even more to come) would be opening in Austin, TX and New York, NY. IBM opened a Power Linux Center in Beijing back in May to take advantage of the massively growing Linux server market in China. Resources at these centers are to include the following:


  • Linux training workshops that show developers how to program, port, and optimize their applications using Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server technologies on Power Systems.
  • Hands-on assistance from dedicated Linux and IBM systems experts to show developers how to take advantage of IBM's unique POWER7+ parallel processing and advanced virtualization capabilities.
  • Access to IBM's business consulting experts and Business Partner resources to develop joint go-to-market strategies for Power Systems- and Linux-based solutions.


With server sales relatively disappointing across the board from all major technology companies, IBM sees Power Linux as a major growth area and they're pushing hard to engage the business community to keep investing in it. Also part of that announcement is that IBM anticipates supporting the Linux Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM) natively on Power Systems in 2014. The announcement states that the "KVM hypervisor is an integral part of the Linux kernel, offering an optimized virtualization technology for Linux workloads. IBM has long supported KVM on its x86-based products and plans to make it available on IBM's Linux-only Power Systems product line-up next year."


While this topic was on the docket back in 2011, it's great to see that IBM is close to making it happen as it further helps position Power Systems strategically against x86-64 hardware, giving customers a broader choice when deploying workloads for cloud, analytical, and big data computing.