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IBM Delivers New Power6 and Virtualization Solutions for SMBs



By Charles King, June 16, 2008

IBM said it is bringing POWER6 microprocessor-based technologies and new virtualization offerings to small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The company’s new PowerVM software – formerly known as Advanced POWER Virtualization (APV) – is now available in Express, Standard and Enterprise Editions, all of which include a free feature that allows System p servers to run Linux x86 binary applications unmodified without recompilation, in addition to UNIX and Linux on POWER applications.In addition, IBM said it will deliver:
  • Two new entry level POWER6 processor-based UNIX servers, the System p 520 Express and System p 550 Express.

  • A new release of the i5/OS operating system for SMBs using the System i platform with new support for the IBM BladeCenter POWER6-based JS22 blade server.

  • First-time support for the BladeCenter JS22 and JS21 Express blade servers with AIX and Linux in the office-friendly BladeCenter S chassis.

  • A new x86 Server Consolidation Factory offering designed to help customers migrate from competitive x86 platforms to IBM System p with the new PowerVM virtualization software.

The Pitch

IBM reaches out to SMBs with Power-based solutions

Mission Accomplished?

There are two subtexts to IBM’s new Power-centric announcement. First, the company is attempting to use its POWER6 technologies and solutions to entice small businesses to try its System p server systems. The new System p 520 and 550 follow other SMB-focused System p solutions and will likely find success among the same customers and markets that embraced those earlier products.

The availability of POWER6-based JS22 blades is a more potentially more interesting event given its availability in the BladeCenter S, a platform designed for the needs of small business and remote office applications. But this move also includes support for the i5/OS operating system, opening an abundance of small business-friendly System i solutions and tools to the BladeCenter S. In doing so, the BladeCenter S easily becomes the market’s most flexible SMB blade offering, capable of simultaneously supporting three distinct microprocessor architectures, four distinct operating environments, multiple virtualization solutions technologies and a host of integrated add-ons developed by IBM’s blade.org partners.

The other issue of note in this announcement is IBM’s promotion of its newly branded PowerVM technology, the company’s virtualization offering for its Power-based systems. There is a good reason for this move; IBM’s Power virtualization has owned a solid place in the market for years due to its robust performance and flexibility. In addition, the technology played a serious role in IBM’s ongoing effort to lure customers of other UNIX vendors (i.e. HP and Sun) to its System p server solutions. However, IBM’s and other UNIX vendors’ virtualization offerings have been somewhat overshadowed by the meteoric rise of VMware, a point reflected in the Power-VM offering.

What is notable about the IBM announcement is that with its new x86 Server Consolidation Factory strategy, IBM aims to leverage PowerVM to attract users of competitors’ x86 servers to System p. Is this a reasonable strategy? Perhaps, but we have some concerns. Since the majority of x86 server users interested in virtualization are most likely customers of VMware, the promotion of PowerVM aims to come not just at the expense of other server vendors but at VMware’s, too. However, because IBM’s System x organization is a major supporter and supplier of VMware solution, the PowerVM effort could set the stage for uncomfortable partner and platform squabbles and migraine-quality PR headaches.

Despite the possible benefits PowerVM might bring to IBM, we believe the company will need to step carefully to avoid potential risks that could otherwise sully the company’s strong new POWER6- based offerings.


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