Over the course of the last few decades, those charged with supporting the use of IT systems within enterprises have spent a large proportion of their time considering each of the individual components that make up their IT infrastructure. This approach has allowed organisations to implement new computing technologies at a relatively rapid rate. However, such an approach came with a large bill attached, as it required considerable quantities of highly skilled manual resources to keep it functioning, especially as the complexity of implemented solutions escalated.
Such a server- or component-based approach to delivering IT services is rapidly becoming unacceptable. The way forward is undoubtedly through the utilisation of a 'Systems' approach rather than components, a realignment that IBM has recognised early.
There is, without doubt, a need for organisations to build and operate their IT infrastructure in new ways that better reflect the rapidly fluctuating needs of business users. These requirements include the need to be able to form new links, at very short notice, with other parts of the enterprise, to establish close working relationships with its partners, suppliers and customers.
IBM's response to these new business requirements has been to adopt what it describes as a collaborative computing model. The aim of this Systems approach is to enable the integration of technology, people and business processes in whatever way makes business sense. It is apparent that a successful adoption of a Systems model should also ensure that IT resources are utilised effectively.
IBM sees the Systems agenda incorporating and, importantly, integrating a number of core IT solutions including virtualisation, built on top of robust system hardware that, wherever possible, utilises open standards to enable collaborative work to be executed securely. Most significantly, IBM sees the importance of applying best practice and robust processes to ensure that the Systems so built operate optimally.
As part of its Systems agenda, IBM recently announced the release of supporting solutions, namely the IBM System z9 mainframe and IBM Virtualisation Engine 2.0. In addition, IBM and Intel have announced their intention to form Blade.Org, an organisation seeking to encourage the development and usage of solutions built on IBM's BladeCenter platform.
However, it is the Virtualisation Engine and System z9 announcements that well illustrate the Systems approach to solutions. The System z9 Mainframe, on which a separate article will be soon published, has been designed almost from the ground up to act as the nucleus of collaborative computing solutions. The z9 System, one of the most open, reliable, scaleable and secure systems ever built, does not follow IBM's existing eServer nomenclature as it has been constructed to host the heart of business critical, communal enterprise operations.
Virtualisation Engine 2.0 (VE) is a virtualisation platform created to allow the pooling and administration of collections of heterogeneous servers, storage devices and network infrastructure components. VE should enable great management (and cost) efficiencies to be delivered whilst enhancing utilisation rates and adding greater flexibility and responsiveness to the IT infrastructure.
It will take some time for this bold Systems concept to be fully realised but its early offerings, the System z9 and Virtualisation Engine 2.0, provide excellent starting points. At a time when organisations are no longer looking to buy individual components that they can then glue into their IT structure, but instead require well thought out solutions, it is good to see IBM promoting the 'Systems' approach.
When is a server not a server? When it's a System z9.