IBM Acquires BNT – Nuclear War In The Converged Infrastructure World?

Richard Fichera

There has been a lot of press about IBM’s acquisition of BNT (Blade Network Technologies) focusing on the economics and market share of BNT as a competitor to Cisco and HP’s ProCurve/3Com franchise. But at its heart the acquisition is more about defending and expanding a position in the emerging converged server, networking, and storage infrastructure segment than it is about raw switch port market share. It is also a powerful vindication of the proposition that infrastructure convergence is driving major realignment in the vendor industry.

Starting with HP’s success with its c-Class blade servers and Virtual Connect technology, and escalating with Cisco’s entrance into the server market, IBM continued its investment in its Virtual Fabric and Open Fabric Manager technology, heavily leveraging BNT’s switch platforms. At some point it became clear that BNT was a critical element of IBM’s convergence strategy, with IBM’s plans now heavily dependent on a vendor with whom they had an excellent, but non-exclusive relationship, and one whose acquisition by another player could severely compromise their product plans. Hence the acquisition. Now that it owns BNT, IBM can capitalize on its excellent edge network technology for further development of its converged infrastructure strategy without hesitation about further leveraging BNT’s technology.

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IBM – Ramping Up x86 Investment

Richard Fichera

I recently spent a day with IBM’s x86 team, primarily to get back up to speed on their entire x86 product line, and partially to realign my views of them after spending almost five years as a direct competitor. All in all, time well spent, with some key takeaways:

  • IBM has fixed some major structural problems with the entire x86 program and it perception in the company – As recently as two years ago, it appeared to the outside world that IBM was not really serious about x86 servers. Between licensing its low-end server designs to Lenovo (although IBM continued to sell its own versions) and an apparent retreat to the upper-end of the segment, it appeared that IBM was not serious about x86 severs. New management, new alignment with sales, and a higher internal profile for x86 seems to have moved the division back into IBM’s mainstream.
  • Increased investment – It looks like IBM significantly ramped up investments in x86 products about three years ago. The result has been a relatively steady flow of new products into the marketplace, some of which, such as the HS22 blade, significantly reversed deficits versus equivalent HP products. Others followed in high-end servers, virtualization and systems management, and increased velocity of innovation in low-end systems.
  • Established leadership in new niches such as dense modular server deployments – IBM’s iDataplex, while representing a small footprint in terms of their total volume, gave them immediate visibility as an innovator in the rapidly growing niche for hyper scale dense deployments. Along the way, IBM has also apparently become the leader in GPU deployments as well, another low-volume but high-visibility niche.
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Join Forrester's New Community For Consumer Product Strategists!

JP Gownder

I'd like to invite you to participate in an exciting new forum for discussion: our community for Consumer Product Strategy professionals!

The community is a place for product strategists to exchange ideas, opinions, and real-world solutions with each other. Forrester analysts will also be part of the community, helping facilitate the discussions and sharing their views.

Right now, we already have discussions going on the topics of product co-creation, creating video content for your product or brand, and the effects disruptive technologies like the iPad have on product strategies. These vibrant conversations are just getting started, but they're already pretty exciting discussions.

In general, here's what you’ll find

  • A simple platform on which you can pose your questions and get advice from peers who face the same business challenges.
  • Insight from our analysts, who weigh in frequently on the issues. 
  • Fresh perspective from peers, who share their real-world success stories and best practices.
  • Content on the latest technologies and trends affecting your business — from Forrester and other thought leaders

I encourage you to become part of the community:

  • Ask a question about a complex business problem.
  • Start a discussion on an emerging trend that’s having an impact on your work.
  • Contribute to an existing discussion thread from a community member.
  • Suggest topics for upcoming Forrester research reports.
  • Create a community profile.
  • Share your perspective with others.

The community is open to both Forrester clients AND to non-clients.  Why not visit today? 

http://community.forrester.com/community/cps

Part 2: Three FUD Statements I&O Managers Use Not To Implement Standards-Based Networking

Andre Kindness

Carrying on from my thoughts in Part 1:  It’s time to start deploying purely standards-based infrastructure outside the data center; data center protocols are just starting to be created for a converged and virtualized world.  With the amount of tested and deployed standards protocols, there’s no excuse for networks to be locked in to a certain vendor with proprietary protocols when standards-based network solutions provide access to compelling volume economics, flexibility to adapt a much wider array of solutions, and relief from hiring specialized talent to run a science project.  Although many organizations understand that standards-based networking provides them with the flexibility to choose from the best available solutions at a lower cost of ownership, they still feel trapped.  Listed below are three top shackles and the keys to open them up:

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Infrastructure & Operations Communities Are Coming

Richard Fichera

Look for the new "Community" tab on the Forrester site. This is your access to a community of like-minded peers. You can use the community to start and participate in discussions, share ideas and experiences, and help guide Forrester Research for your role. The success or failure of this community effort depends largely on you. The analysts will participate, but in this forum they have less weight than do you, the Forrester I&O user. So help us, help your peers, and help yourself make this an active and thriving online community. Some thoughts to maybe get you going: Have any particularly good or bad experiences with products, solutions or technology? What key enablers are you looking at as you transform your data centers and operations? What does "cloud" mean to you? Any thoughts on vendor management and negotiations? This is just a random stream of consciousness selection. Make the community yours by adding your own topics.

Will IT Fall Beneath The Shadows?

James Staten

A funny thing happened while we in IT were focused on ITIL, data center consolidation and standardization. The business went shopping for better technology solutions. We’ve been their go-to department for technology since the mainframe days and have been doing what they asked. When they wanted higher SLAs we invested in high availability solutions. When they asked for greater flexibility we empowered them with client-server, application servers and now virtual machines. All the while they have relentlessly badgered us for lower costs and greater efficiencies. And we’ve given it to them. And until recently, they seemed satisfied. Or so we thought.

Sure, we’ve tolerated the occasional SaaS application here and there. We’ve let them bring in Macs (just not too many of them) and we’ve even supported their pesky smart phones. But each time they came running to us for assistance when the technical support need grew too great.

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Part 1: Standards And Proprietary Technology: A Time And Place For Both

Andre Kindness

I was listening to a briefing the other day and got swept up in a Western melodrama, set against the backdrop of Calamity Jane’s saloon in Deadwood Gulch, South Dakota, revolving around three major characters: helpless heroine (the customer); valiant hero (vendor A, riding a standards-based white horse); and the scoundrel villain (a competitor, riding the proprietary black stallion) (insert boo and hiss). Vendor A tries to evoke sympathy at his plight of not offering the latest features because he doesn’t have the same powers as the villain and has chosen to follow the morally correct path, which is filled with prolonged and undeserved suffering supporting standards-based functions. What poppycock! There is no such thing as good and evil in networking. If the vendors were reversed in positions, vendor A would be doing the same thing as its competitors. Every vendor has some type of special sauce to differentiate themselves. Anyway, it’s business, plain and simple; networking fundamentally needs proprietary and standards-based features. However, there’s a time and place for both.  

With that in mind, I want to let you know that I’m a big proponent of standards-based networking. The use of open standards improves the choices that help you reduce risk, implement durable solutions, obtain flexibility, and benefit from quality. Ninety-plus percent of networking should be leveraging standard protocols, but to get to that point features need to go through three stages:

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Little Servers For Big Applications At Intel Developer Forum

Richard Fichera

I attended Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco last week, one of the premier events for anyone interested in microprocessors, system technology, and of course, Intel itself. Among the many wonders on display, including high-end servers, desktops and laptops, and presentations related to everything Cloud, my attention was caught by a pair of small wonders – very compact, low power servers paradoxically targeted at some of the largest hyper-scale web-facing workloads. Despite being nominally targeted at an overlapping set of users and workloads, the two servers, the Dell “Viking” and the SeaMicro SM10000, represent a study in opposite design philosophies on how to address the problem of scaling infrastructure to address high-throughput web workloads. In this case, the two ends of the spectrum are adherence to an emerging standardized design and utilization of Intel’s reference architectures as a starting point versus a complete refactoring of the constituent parts of a server to maximize performance per watt and physical density.

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Rating: Hold - Stormy Waters Continue To Toss The Minnow: HP Networking

Andre Kindness

The other day I was just reminiscing with a friend who works at HP about all the good times I had there with my ProCurve family.  When I left for a once in lifetime opportunity, I had so much hope for HP’s networking division.  Like many of my inquiries from global customers looking for a Cisco alternative, I’m concerned about the division and its long-term viability.  I’m not worried if HP will continue to exist without Mark Hurd.  Companies are more than a single leader.  There is plenty of research, books, and online debates about the effect of a single person: Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, John Chambers, etc.  The issue at hand is the existence of product lines within enormous companies, like networking within HP.  One of my mentors always said, “If you look at networking over the last twenty years, no major IT company or voice vendor has been able to pull off being a serious networking vendor if networking wasn’t its first priority.”  Fundamentally networking is one of the few technologies where a vendor has to be all in.  The networking graveyard is full of headstones:  Nortel fell off the face of earth, IBM sold off its assets, and Dell hobbles along.

Ah, you might say, what about HP?  That brings me to my three observations that every IT manager should consider when including HP in their network architecture:

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Interesting Hardware Products At VMworld: NEC FT x86 Servers And Xsigo I/O Virtualization

Richard Fichera

Not a big surprise, but VMworld was overwhelmingly focused on software. I was concerned that great hardware might get lost in the software noise, so I looked for hardware standouts using two criteria:

  1. They had to have some relevance to virtualization. Most offerings could check this box – we were at WMworld, after all.
  2. They had to have some potential impact on Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) for a wide range of companies.
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