By Alan Radding, Big4.com Guest Blogger
Integrated hardware/software appliances are a common piece of vendor product lines, but IBM’s new family of appliances may be a game changer, especially for system integrators and consultants who profit from deploying these devices for their clients.
Appliances pre-integrate and configure everything an organization needs in terms of server, storage, network, and software for easy deployment out-of-the-box. Consulting firms have even gotten into the appliance business. Capgemini offers an SAP appliance, and Deloitte and EMC have teamed to offer an appliance as a hardware/services deal.
The new IBM PureSystems appliances, however, take it even further. IBM calls these expert systems because it has baked into the system large amounts of automated best practices around the majority of the processes for which most organizations need systems, whether web applications, database applications, or almost anything else a company might do. With all the expertise and automation built in IBM estimates that a PureSystems machine can be set up and running in four hours. IBM further calculates that PureSystems requires 47% less deployment labor hours and 73% fewer management hours versus conventional systems. Where does that leave system integrators and consultants?
Right now the product family consists of PureFlex, an IaaS offering, and PureApplication, a PaaS offering. IBM even avoids its typical premium pricing. An entry PureFlex System starts at $100,000 while a recent report put competing integrated hardware/software appliances at $750,000. The entry level PureFlex can still handle a midsize organization, and it painlessly scales as the organization grows.
The most innovative part of PureSystems is not the price but the idea of expert patterns. Patterns are built-in software that encapsulates the expertise enabling the systems can automatically handle basic, time-consuming tasks such as configuration, upgrades, and application requirements. The systems also come with cloud computing built in, allowing it to be a private cloud out of the box. Organizations can automatically create a private, self-service, multi-platform cloud that can scale up and down. So, what is left for the systems integrator or consultant?
When asked by this blogger, Steve Mills, IBM senior vice president of software and systems, insisted that systems integrators and consultants “absolutely have a role connecting the business side, the business process to the technology.” IBM also provides a customization opportunity in the form of specialized expert patterns developed with a toolkit that’s part of PureSystems. A consultant might even sell the expert patterns for various niches, much as people do with Salesforce.com.
At this point the idea of a PureSystems market is at the most nascent stage. Still, it is an opportunity to watch as your clients consider the devices. Eventually, the PureSystem Centre will become the hub for patterns from IBM and others.
Other vendors offer specialized combo hardware and software bundles that reduce the need for consultants and integrators: Oracle has Exadata and Exalogic; NetApp and Cisco offer FlexPod; EMC, Cisco, and VMware collaborated to create VCE, which offers VBlock; and HP offers its converged infrastructure. Each vendor has its supporters. Only PureSystems, however, offers the customized expert pattern opportunity.