Adaptive Computing: Will It Deliver Savings?

customer's environment to adapt very quickly and cost-effectively to the dynamically changing demands made by vendors,

August 2, 2004

3 Min Read
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Every few months or so, it seems a new technology term comes along: Adaptive computing is the term du jour for leading server manufacturers. Still in its infancy, it isn't clear whether the term will take its place in the industry nomenclature for the long term. Server makers such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, IBM and Fujitsu, however, claim it has the potential to articulate a solution to problems that currently plague IT departments -- and to accurately describe one of the most common points of pain for business users: cost.

"The term that we are delivering today communicates being able to meet user requirements if and when they need it," said Ram Appalaraju, vice president of Cupertino, Calif.-based HP's Adaptive Enterprise Program. "It has become big in the industry because people are embarking on major IT investments to increase their responsiveness to user needs. As a second definition, we have been making strides in talking about aligning the needs of the business and of IT."

In the past, companies bought servers to meet needs, such as e-mail or Internet access, but, over time, found they weren't adequately leveraging their computing resources and capacity. Fundamentally, server makers argue, an infrastructure that dynamically evolves to support changing business processes will save users money as utilization levels rise. Typically, Windows-based server utilization hovers at around 20 percent, while Unix utilization ranges between 30 percent to 40, said Appalaraju. Adaptive computing has the potential to push those levels to 50 percent or higher, he said. Increased utilization saves hardware costs, but streamlined management also translates into less time spent and additional savings. "The bottom line is that the adaptive enterprise provides homogenous management environment that scales to the need," Appalaraju said.

In February, Dell, HP, Intel and NEC unveiled version 2.0 of the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) specification. IPMI aims to lower the overall costs of server management by helping users save time and maximize resources by defining common interfaces that allow IT managers to receive status alerts, send instructions to industry-standard servers and run diagnostics over a network, instead of locally at the server. Although, as a term, adaptive computing points to a vision that will change the entire enterprise, the concept is still in its infancy. Server manufacturers are taking a one-step-at-a-time approach.

"Right now, Fujitsu is using adaptive computing in the same way that SAP has adopted the term," said Hank Almeida, solutions marketing manager at Fujitsu, Sunnyvale, Calif. "They want to put an infrastructure in place that allows the customer's environment to adapt very quickly and cost-effectively to the dynamically changing demands made by vendors, customers or whomever."As part of its longterm Triole strategy, Fujitsu in May released FlexFrame for mySAP Business Suite, which allows virtualization of the Linux OS, application services and storage, so all application and database services are integrated into a single platform.

"We are finding customers interested in what we can do for them right now, so we are doing tactical solutions," said John Howell, principal analyst with Fujitu's Enterprise Server Product Marketing. "FlexFrame is something that customers can work with now and really get their arms around."

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