In a move to demonstrate its commitment to the Linux platform, IBM on Wednesday rolled out its IBM PowerLinux Systems and Solutions. The new offerings are designed to help customers exploit the cost efficiency of Linux and virtualization for business-critical workloads.
IBM says its PowerLinux Solutions can integrate new Linux-specific Power7 processor-based hardware with industry-standard Linux software from Red Hat and SUSE for analyzing "Big Data." Two new servers are part of the deal: the IBM PureFlex System and the value-priced IBM PowerLinux System.
Colin Parris, general manager of IBM Power Systems, explained that serving the Linux market is an important initiative for IBM as a whole.
"As CIOs seek to transform their IT department from a cost center to a strategic asset," Parris said, "many have a misconception that deploying Linux on x86 servers equipped with VMware software is their only option for taking advantage of open-source applications."
A Stellar Linux Strategy
Big Blue is making some big promises with its PowerLinux Solutions and supporting systems. The company says the technology is designed to lower deployment time and costs, while offering greater performance, dependability, and workload density than competitive x86 platforms at similar price points.
We asked Laura DiDio, principal analyst at Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, to expound on IBM's latest Linux offerings. She told us Big Blue's servers and strategy are well thought out from a price, performance and business standpoint.
"IBM has clearly covered all its bases and done its homework in terms of market research in sizing the current and future market for industry standard Red Hat and SUSE Linux distributions on its Power servers," she said.
Their latest announcement, she explained, "has all the elements to make the PowerLinux platform a success, including brand recognition and respect; demonstrable experience in performance, technical service and support, and a new pricing model to upsell current customers and drive new wins."
IBM's Challenge to VMware
IBM's repeated value proposition with its new offering is to provide more value to customers at a lower cost than others offering Linux on commodity x86 servers. IBM is also pushing the message that by replacing aging x86-based Windows servers with PowerLinux Systems and using open-source applications, clients could further cut costs by reducing or eliminating high license fees and upgrade charges for proprietary software.
Still, DiDio sees two challenges IBM faces in the near-term: distinguishing and differentiating the PowerLinux solutions from its PowerAIX offerings, and beating back VMware's dominance in the server virtualization market. She predicts IBM will use its economies of scale to undercut VMware pricing.
From a competitive standpoint, DiDio said, IBM has scored impressive new customer wins -- particularly from among legacy Sun Microsystems customers who are disaffected over the changes Oracle has made to pricing, licensing and support contracts since 2010. But IBM will have to work harder, she said, to lure customers away from other server rivals like Hewlett-Packard or Dell and VMware, or Microsoft, Citrix and other x86 vendors in the virtualization space.
"IBM does have a clear-cut advantage when it comes to the intelligence that powers its systems. The much heralded Watson is leagues ahead of all comers in intelligent analytics and is at the heart of IBM's Smarter Planet initiative," DiDio said.
"IBM is adapting Watson for all of its servers to perform accelerated, predictive analysis. The fact that IBM is now harnessing the power of Watson and making it available to the masses at an affordable price point augurs well for the mainstream success of its PowerLinux strategy."