Over the last couple of years, IBM, despite having a rich internal technology ecosystem and a number of competitive blade and CI offerings, has not had a comprehensive integrated offering to challenge HP’s CloudSystem Matrix and Cisco’s UCS. This past week IBM effectively silenced its critics and jumped to the head of the CI queue with the announcement of two products, PureFlex and PureApplication, the results of a massive multi-year engineering investment in blade hardware, systems management, networking, and storage integration. Based on a new modular blade architecture and new management architecture, the two products are really more of a continuum of a product defined by the level of software rather than two separate technology offerings.
PureFlex is the base product, consisting of the new hardware (which despite having the same number of blades as the existing HS blade products, is in fact a totally new piece of hardware), which integrates both BNT-based networking as well as a new object-based management architecture which can manage up to four chassis and provide a powerful setoff optimization, installation, and self-diagnostic functions for the hardware and software stack up to and including the OS images and VMs. In addition IBM appears to have integrated the complete suite of Open Fabric Manager and Virtual Fabric for remapping MAC/WWN UIDs and managing VM networking connections, and storage integration via the embedded V7000 storage unit, which serves as both a storage pool and an aggregation point for virtualizing external storage. The laundry list of features and functions is too long to itemize here, but PureFlex, especially with its hypervisor-neutrality and IBM’s Cloud FastStart option, is a complete platform for an enterprise private cloud or a horizontal VM compute farm, however you choose to label a shared VM utility.
A recent conversation with IBM software executives sheds more light on the topic of software audits. Responding to a blog post we published a few months ago, IBM recognized some of the challenges inherent in an IBM software audit. They proclaimed that getting through an audit, addressing these challenges, and moving towards license optimization is cemented in Software Asset Management (SAM) best practices. IBM also told us that the causes of client exposures fall into one of three categories:
Customers' indifference to their responsibility in an IBM software agreement. Few companies fall under this category, as most decide to be held accountable for their compliance.
Loss of deployment control. Complicated licensing structures and poor SAM practices characterize this category. While IBM licenses inherently are complicated, clients add to the complexity when they deviate from the standard contract in an effort to add flexible terms. A common example of a poor SAM practice that contributes to IBM software exposure is the lack of communication between those that procure the licenses/negotiate entitlements and those that deploy licenses.
Over-deployment due to non-malicious gross error. While companies may not maliciously over-deploy IBM software in their environments, some innocently deploy them by accident. A common example includes the case of the "golden CD" where software from a CD is mistakenly replicated across the vast server landscape. Additionally, some companies misinterpret their entitlements. An example of this includes deploying licenses based on a misunderstanding of their terms and conditions.