Learning to run and discovering IBM PureSystems, the workload-aware cloud, at Impact 2012
Wes Simonds 120000EFD6 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  ibm capabilities websphere impact wes aware to cuomo puresystems cloud learning 2012 simonds capability run software business-agility workload jerry
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One of the key topics at IBM Impact 2012 to be held in Las Vegas April 29–May 4 will be IBM PureSystems. It’s a new family of what IBM calls expert integrated systems that combines the flexibility of general purpose systems, the elasticity of cloud and the simplicity of an appliance tuned to the workload. And I think that the cloud and workload aspects are key ones here.
I had the chance to talk with Jerry Cuomo, IBM Fellow, VP and WebSphere CTO -- and one of the key presenters on PureSystems at Impact -- about the recent announcement and what it will mean to the world of business and IT. Its impact, if you will. But before I share Jerry’s insights, I’d like to step back and talk about cloud in a more general way – then we’ll see how PureSystems fits in.
I sometimes think one of the most important and underrated aspects of cloud computing is ‘abstraction’ -- the way clouds can empower organizations to move up from a lower level of abstract thought and execution to a higher, better one.
Of course, abstraction is a little... abstract itself, as subjects go. So let me trot out one of my patented analogies to clarify a bit.
Have you ever seen a baby when it's first learning to walk? The job is really quite a complex one as far as the baby is concerned. It has to ponder large muscle groups very consciously, deliberately thinking about using one leg, then another, all while also using small muscle groups to maintain its balance.
But eventually the baby can stop thinking about things on that level -- the level of specific muscle control -- and start thinking on a higher, more abstract, more effective level.
Now it's not ‘I need to move my left leg forward, and put my weight on my left foot’ but, much more simply, ‘I want to walk into the next room.’
This new, higher level of abstraction the baby has reached gives it new power to pursue its goals (which may or may not include terrorizing the family pet and deep-searching local trash cans).
And if this baby is ultimately going to reach the highest level of competitive motion -- perhaps becoming a world-class sprinter, the next Usain Bolt -- it is going to have to be thinking on a very high level of abstraction indeed. There is just no time to think about such details as which muscles you'll move next, when you're running sprints in the Olympics. There is instead only nine and a half seconds to travel a hundred meters.
That's not a bad metaphor for business today -- a similarly competitive world, in which market agility tends to translate into market success. You don't want to have to think about the technical details; you really may not have the time.
You want to focus on your goals and strategies and services, the heart of the value you're creating in the world, and trust that your infrastructure will be up to the efficient execution of whatever you have in mind.
Clouds -- done right -- can be that infrastructure.
The question isn't ‘What's our tech?’ but ‘How well do we fulfill our workloads?’
All this crossed my mind when I learned about PureSystems and talked with Jerry Cuomo. He agreed with me about the importance of abstraction, but was quick to point out that the new launch delivers far more benefits than just that.
It seems that PureSystems is the end result of IBM's underlying goal to deliver a next-generation service delivery platform solution that fulfills workloads optimally -- even given how dynamically workloads can change across time, both technical and business domains and organizations.
‘PureSystems is unique to our industry,’ he said. ‘It represents a bold balance of being open yet prescriptive, and preserving compatibility with your current applications while introducing support for highly efficient new workloads. PureSystems do not just hold the potential to be workload-aware; they are workload-aware. PureSystems do not merely enable workloads; they contain them, including a scalable web workload. They facilitate lifecycle management like monitoring and license management, and what's more, those capabilities work right out of the box. Simply put, IBM PureSystems are not just your cloud-in-a-box solution, they are your workload-aware cloud.’
What are the ingredients of the PureSystems’ recipe? Basically, they're packaged in two groups. The first group – ‘next-generation platforms,’ or NGP -- is a top-caliber variation on Infrastructure-as-a-Service.
But it's in the second group, which focuses on application systems, that the real magic happens.
Recall that IBM, almost uniquely to the IT industry, produces solutions at every layer of the technology stack. That means IBM, almost uniquely to the IT industry, also has the power to combine those layers into optimized packages -- all of which also benefit from IBM's enormous experience consulting with organizations of all sizes, in all industries, on cloud computing topics.
For PureSystems application systems, that means IBM's strengths are multiplied, each helping all the others.
‘Today, organizations have choices at every level -- processors, storage, network, OS, middleware and applications,’ said Cuomo. ‘While the last decade of open competition around these components has driven record capability and quality, enterprises trade the ability to mix and match these best-of-breed parts while also paying the very high price tag of labor cost and skills needed to orchestrate the final composition. However, this leaves very little in the enterprise's innovation budget. PureSystems give the customer back their innovation budget. Our hardware and software experts have used our cumulative experience to create an integrated system that also empowers our clients to stir in their own expertise and capabilities -- easily.’
Here you see just what IBM means by ‘expert integrated systems.’ It's not just IBM's expertise that's being integrated; it's also the customer's. This is the magic of PureSystems: it is an ideal foundation for private cloud computing that
(a) delivers the best technologies IBM has to offer, drawn from the industry's strongest cloud portfolio,
(b) combines those technologies in the best ways for a private cloud, in direct support of proven best practices, and
(c) still allows the new cloud to be easily tweaked to create a perfect fit for any given organization's needs.
Instant time to value, but also straight-forward tailoring
In fact, beyond merely ‘allowing’ that kind of tweaking, IBM has made it remarkably straightforward.
For instance, cloud services executing on PureSystems can be managed by team members both inside and outside of IT proper.
Line of business managers are going to enjoy being able to request a new service right from a catalog, then have oversight of that service themselves -- an experience they may never have had before, and a power akin to being able to walk, instead of having to ask someone else to carry you.
They're also going to enjoy the fact that cloud management for PureSystems can easily be aligned with job roles, so they can manage their services using the interface that works best for them, as determined by the performance metrics that they deem most significant.
IBM has, in fact, created a new admin paradigm just for PureSystems -- another variation on the theme of multiple levels of abstraction -- and Cuomo is very optimistic about how it's likely to be received.
‘One of the aspects PureSystems we think our customers will love is the way they make management so straightforward,’ he said. ‘Via our approach of progressive disclosure, they can administer services at the technical level that makes the best sense for them. Specifically, we support a progression with three levels of disclosure. The first, Virtual Application, only requires you to know the needs of your application -- middleware and hardware are hidden. The second, Virtual Systems, pre-arranges middleware in patterns designed to power specific workloads. Last, Virtual Appliance supports a bring-your-own-expertise model, allowing you to include your own middleware and construct your own patterns.’
This concept of workload patterns is yet another selling point of PureSystems. Thanks to literally decades of experience in IT consulting, IBM has acquired an extraordinary level of knowledge about middleware/hardware combinations and the patterns that tend to apply. That insight is baked in, so you can leverage the patterns right away. And most organizations will do exactly that.
But you can also, as Cuomo suggested, create and roll out new patterns from scratch. And you can combine these two models -- integrating, in a sense, the best of IBM's expertise and the best of your own.
It's hard to get much more expert or integrated than that, and Impact 2012 will be the place to learn more about it.
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About the author
Guest blogger Wes Simonds worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.