Business IT solution development generally follows specific trends and overlapping eras. The first, calculation, occurred as digital products and services wholly replaced the adding machines and other mechanical business devices. The vendors that produced them -- including Burroughs, Sperry and IBM -- became some of early IT's biggest players.
The second, computation, mirrored the evolution of digitized solutions for increasingly complex processes and applications.
The third, consolidation, found vendors creating -- and their customers buying -- products and services that extended IT into virtually every business process and strategy.
The fourth and most recent era, comprehension, began a decade or so ago, when IT vendors began developing solutions to help customers more effectively manage sprawling on- and off-site IT infrastructures, in order to analyze increasingly large and complex volumes of information, as well as to leverage IT to improve decision making.
Confluence of Complementary Technologies
IBM's Smarter Analytics and SmartCloud solutions were among the first commercial offerings in this area. With follow-on developments -- from the Watson system that participated on the Jeopardy! game show to the PureSystems and PureData solutions introduced last year -- IBM has remained at or near the head of the pack of vendors that aim to help their clients successfully adopt and gain the maximum value from their Big Data and cloud computing investments.
This is the context for the new PureSystems and PureData solutions IBM introduced last week, including
the new IBM PureData System for Analytics, powered by Netezza (N2001): Featuring 50 percent greater data capacity per rack, it is able to crunch data three times faster than the previous (N1001) version of the platform;
A smaller PureApplication System: IBM's new "mini" model offers a "cloud in a box" solution to organizations with limited budgets and resources, and it should also open new opportunities for IBM among managed service providers (MSPs) and in growth markets looking for cost-effective solutions that don't sacrifice performance;
PureApplication System on POWER7+: This system is aimed at larger enterprises, particularly those in financial services and insurance, where uptime and performance are mission-critical;
MSP Editions for PureFlex System and Flex System: These new solutions provide a cloud deployment platform that is faster to implement, easier to manage, and more cost-effective than platforms MSPs have to build themselves, helping to cut operating expenses, such as systems administration and setup;
SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure: Leveraging IBM's PureFlex System and Flex System solutions, this new solution aims to help IT managers easily manage, secure and deploy virtual desktop solutions, and to securely deploy desktop access to mobile devices; and
Expanded Software Patterns Catalog: In addition to the more than 325 applications across 21 industries offered by IBM's 275 ISV partners, new patterns from the company's software organization include solutions for mobile application management, application integration, asset management and social business.
These new solutions find IBM sizing-up and -down its technologies to make them more effective in increasingly challenging business environments, and more affordable to a broader range of customers and use cases. They also reflect a confluence of complementary strategic realities -- the continuing development of ever more-robust analytics and cloud technologies, alongside the evolving needs and use cases for those solutions by IBM customers.
Think Big, Spend Small
The new PureData System for Analytics (N2001) is a good example of how this works. IBM achieved a threefold increase in density by more than doubling the overall number of hard drives a single system can support. It also improved the scan rates of those drives -- from 120 MB/sec to 130 MB/sec. Meanwhile, new, faster FGPA cores doubled the amount of data a system can process from about 500 MB/sec to more than 1,000 MB/sec.
This has significant practical effects. In comparing the cost per GB/sec scan rates, the new PureData solution will cost about one fifth of an equivalent Oracle offering, according to IBM.
The new PureData N2001 also continues Netezza's seven years of delivering 100-200 percent data growth annually. In other words, customers should not be surprised by continuing, impressive, cost-effective improvements from this corner of IBM's PureData portfolio.
IBM's new MSP-focused solutions are also worth considering. MSPs are among the most diverse in size and variety of IT customers, and many (especially those in regional markets or focusing on specific industries) are mid-sized businesses that suffer common pains -- limited funding, uncertain revenue streams and a need to "think big" while keeping expenditures small.
IBM's new "mini" PureApplication System and MSP-specific PureFlex and Flex System offerings suggest that the company has clearly taken those points to heart and is doing all it can to work with these customers. That includes providing extremely attractive funding options through IBM Global Financing for MSPs that are also business partners.
Overall, there is much to like in IBM's new PureSystems offerings. By notably enhancing performance and developing entirely new classes of solutions, the company is proving that its cloud and analytics strategies are anything but one-trick ponies.
The new solutions also reflect a constant theme among businesses of every sort: that even as technology evolves, so do the capabilities and needs of its users. As IT's current comprehension era proceeds, successful vendors will be those that -- like IBM -- clearly understand and proactively address this point for their customers' benefit.