IBM PureSystems integration appliance to vie with Oracle offerings

Expert integration system patterns are at the heart of the PureSystems hardware appliance launched by IBM at its Impact 2012 event in Las Vegas.

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LAS VEGAS -- IBM says a new hardware appliance that builds on its multi-year autonomic computing effort will address increasingly complex needs for systems integration. Announced just two weeks ago, the PureSystems expert integrated system was on display as IBM Impact 2012 kicked off.

 The appliance is engineered to include built-in expertise patterns for hardware, network and application integration. That means highly cherished systems programmer skills are embedded in the offering. It can host IBM and non-IBM software.

In fact, the PureSystems expertise patterns duplicate known best practices forged by IBM integration specialists. A developers’ kit announced at Impact 2012 lets IT shops add their own expertise patterns to the mix.

Besides addressing customers’ needs for faster, cheaper integration, PureSystems can also be viewed as a counter to Exadata and Exalogic appliance servers from competitor Oracle, a relatively recent addition to the hardware game.

Appliances are seen as a way to address complexity. That is important. As Agile development teams have improved turn-arounds and tech-savvy business leaders have tapped the readily available Web platform, deployment of complex integrations has become a bottleneck.

“It can take months to rollout a new system,” IBM Application and Integration Middleware General Manager Marie Wieck told Impact 2012 attendees. “IBM wants to bring a new breed of system that is integrated by design.” That new breed of system has a large footprint, indeed. The PureSystems box on display at the Las Vegas event resembled a mainframe in appearance, if not in particulars.

Wieck said a new IBM Virtual Pattern Kit for Developers lets customers create their own patterns of expertise for IBM PureSystems integrations. These can be developed and tested via a PureSystems cloud trial – in effect, a cloud-based sandbox for building and testing operating system and middleware setups. The patterns can be varied. 

“I think the most interesting expertise patterns relate to workload optimization,” said observer Adrian Bowles, principal and founder, SIG411 LLC. “IT shops can match workloads to available parts of the hardware portfolio.” The PureSystems hardware can run Linux, AIX, X Series, Power Servers and multiple hypervisors.

ISV play for PureSystems

PureSystems could impact ISVs and system integrators. Like end-users, they vie with application integration complexity.

Application integration and infrastructure complexity is a growing issue, said Rob Thomas, senior vice president of R&D, Manhattan Associates, on hand at Impact 2012. His company creates logistics, supply-chain and related systems. He characterizes his offerings as platforms that must be easy to install. He gave an example.

“Recently, we upgraded a large system for a natural food distributor - a pretty complex system...planning 7,000 truckloads a week. That type of system requires some pretty complex technology from an application perspective and also from an infrastructure perspective. You’re looking at Web servers, load balancers, application servers, integration servers, security servers, data base servers, and all of that has to be highly available. All that complexity I just described [needs] a duplicate.” 

You also need a preproduction version of the system, he added, noting that it took 30 days of labor to set up the system, before even looking at implementing a business process systems layer. He estimated that, with the PureSystems technology, Manhattan Associates would be able to accomplish the same work in a matter of hours.

Integration appliances smack-down?

While PureSystems is a culmination of a long effort by IBM to confront the heavy, labor-intensive cost of systems integrations, it also can be seen as a competitive challenge to appliances from Oracle and Cisco. The IBM effort, maintains Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive leading IBM Software and Systems, is not a response to Oracle, but business as usual for IBM.

“The PureSystems initiative began about four years ago, it partly came about because we had been watching a phenomenon of an ever rising cost associated with people around computing,” said Mills. “Our customers were spending an ever larger percent of their budget on the people side.”

The problem is in the effort of “standing up a system, configuring it, managing it, changing it and maintaining it,” he said. “On a price performance basis the asset costs have been coming down a lot, [but] the labor costs have not been coming down.” PureSystems, he indicated, arises from the problem of deploying physical infrastructure.

The project is part of an ongoing effort and should not be seen as a response to Oracle’s appliance program. He said: “We were looking at customer pain points and the problem, and recognizing  we were at a breakpoint in terms of customer budgets, where too much of their budget is going to things not related to the actual physical assets themselves.” That is what drove the project effort, Mills emphasized.

“The design point that we landed on is profoundly different than the design points that others have chosen,” he said.

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