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Taneja Blog / Data Center Systems

IBM Puresystems, or, How Many Heads Does Convergence Have?

I just wrote a column for Storage Magazine on the nature of convergence in the IT industry and specifically in the storage industry. The column will run in the June issue. “Convergence” may seem like a market-speak term that has fallen out of favor, but the reality is that convergence is alive and well, and a deeper influence than we often think it is. The convergence value proposition only continues to grow as convergence trends have become an on-going design element. Think unified storage, virtual data protection, continuous data protection (even though they are often not called that in their latest incarnation), or cloud-integrated enterprise storage. What do they have in common? Convergence.

IBM has just proved my point by announcing IBM PureSystems, which seems to be a major convergence play. Let’s take a quick look at convergence history to see why IBM might be a very different take on a long-term industry development.

For a while convergence was driven by lock-in fears. Pundits were crying lock-in when Oracle and HP were first duking it out, though I frankly think lock-in is less a given than many make out. Maybe those two made convergence a little more obvious by turning it into a soap opera, but convergence has been a much longer and broader running trend.

Next to these two vendors, Cisco’s UCS probably made the biggest splash over the past few years. Cisco paved the way by proving some interesting things can be done, and new approaches can come with success.  It isn't that they pulled off raw, clever innovation, but rather took some good ideas and made it successful - many of those ideas are probably in part attributable to pioneers like Fabric7. 

That led to folks like Pivot3 being able to demonstrate some success with something a little more innovative, shifting the focus to storage + compute.  Next up, Nutanix. And soon to be added to the roster of current vendors will be Scale Computing.  You might call this something along the lines of super convergence, because it gets pretty clever when both the storage and the compute can scale.  And we certainly shouldn't overlook Dell.  HP has furiously waved the "Converged Infrastructure" and "Converged Storage" banner but to be fair, Dell has long been selling product that fits into a rack-based converged data center vision.  So convergence certainly isn't new, and it is easy to see it is a long running influence that is way too often overlooked.

The IBM PureSystems convergence takes this development a step further, and at the same time strikes back at a shift that happened many years ago. Distributed applications and Microsoft once swept in and pulled the IP and much of the value away from system vendors. Now in 2012 comes IBM’s convergence take with a twist: they built it with more intelligence than we commonly see. PureSystems is a packaging of hardware and application that is fully optimized and tightly integrated.  That type of system used to be a synonym for “complicated” and struck fear in customer's hearts.  But times have changed and the market with it. The largest part of a system cost is no longer CAPEX, but its integration with other infrastructure elements and on-going management requirements and costs. Meanwhile, increasing power and better architectures mean a right-sized system can be acquired fairly simply, and then that system can be scaled.  

Now with trends toward open source, cloud, virtualized abstraction, fewer applications and infrastructure dependencies, and heightened compatibility; the system vendor's play is back. The differentiator is integration up the stack. Is IBM taking the convergence equation even further? Are we seeing a paradigm shift?  Time will tell, and we’ll be watching.

  • Premiered: 04/18/12
  • Author: Taneja Group
Topic(s): IBM Cisco Pivot3 Scale convergence Puresystems Dell HP

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