IBM Embraces Dynamic Infrastructures

This model of what might be called 'chaotically distributed computing' is a logical destination of the business IT revolution that began a generation ago

February 20, 2009

5 Min Read
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IBM has announced services and products the company says will bring more intelligence, automation, integration, and efficiencies to the digital and physical worlds. The new offerings are designed to enable clients to build dynamic IT and business infrastructures that use powerful computing systems to manage and gain insight from the increasing number of physical assets instrumented with intelligent sensors. According to IBM, the key requirements of dynamic infrastructures include:

  • The integration of digital and physical infrastructures, providing the ability to use information technology to manage business processes, increasingly intelligent physical infrastructure, and assets, and drive new and improved services.

  • The ability to manage, store, and analyze the 15 new petabytes of information the world is generating daily -- eight times more information than in all U.S. libraries combined -- and to address requirements associated with governance, compliance, availability, retention, risk, and security.

  • A reduction of massive inefficiencies and greater resilience in today's interconnected world, where data center costs for energy, space, etc., have risen eightfold since 1996, and distributed server use averages just 6 percent to 15 percent.

IBM's new dynamic infrastructure hardware, software, and service solutions are designed to help clients better respond to, and manage, global business challenges."Change" has emerged as a profound metaphor over the past year. That change is inevitable is common wisdom, but effectively managed change is all too uncommon. This issue is particularly important in relation to business information technologies. On the upside, organizations have access to IT solutions of unprecedented power. On the downside, operating, managing, and maintaining such infrastructures is a massively complex, expensive undertaking for most businesses.

In a sense, this model of what might be called "chaotically distributed computing" is a logical destination of the business IT revolution that began a generation ago. Despite that, it is critically important for companies to ensure that both their business and technological assets are managed intelligently and effectively. Why? Because digital and physical infrastructure assets are literally colliding.

Via "smart" sensors, embedded processors, and RFID tags, computational power inhabits objects today that we would once never have recognized as computers. The potential benefits of these devices and developments are clear in IBMs vision of a "smarter planet," as described by company CEO Sam Palmisano, where "every human being, company, organization, city, nation, natural system, and man-made system is becoming interconnected, instrumented, and intelligent."

The shift toward systemic global intelligence presents businesses great opportunities and equally great challenges. To succeed in an increasingly smarter world, companies need dynamic infrastructures that provide the means to commonly aggregate, manage, and gain the full advantages from both their IT and business assets. Helping customers to effectively simplify, share, and secure their IT and business assets is the central point of IBM's new products and services.

It is arguable that the dynamic infrastructure is a destination towards which IBM has been traveling for nearly a decade. In 2000, the company announced the eLiza Project (later dubbed "Autonomic Computing"), which sought to migrate mainframe-class self-healing and self-managing technologies across the company's other server platforms. In 2002, IBM announced the On Demand initiative, aiming to develop and deliver highly integrated solutions that would support the utility-style provision of computerized capabilities and services.Last year's New Enterprise Data Center (NEDC) leveraged a host of traditional and emerging IBM technologies to help clients address operational challenges and gain the benefits of flexible emerging IT solutions. The approach to IT management and provisioning exemplified by NEDC laid the groundwork for IBM's efforts around dynamic infrastructures. But these new offerings are not simply products and services in search of a problem. The problems already exist, in the form of increasingly complex, increasingly distributed, IT-based behaviors.

Consider the degree to which unfettered mobility and digital information permeate the lives and activities of modern workers and consumers. Today, business can take place, quite literally, anywhere and anytime. In addition, growing collaboration between companies and their employees, partners, and customers is stretching the boundaries of the traditional workplace and shrinking or flattening historic business barriers. Supporting the myriad needs and desires of wireless-enabled consumers is a must for modern businesses, but it can be an insanely complex and costly nightmare for their IT departments.

In IBM's view, companies can address these challenges efficiently and cost-effectively with dynamic infrastructure-based IT and business solutions. These can be supported/supplied by traditional data centers or provisioned via emerging cloud computing environments. In fact, it could be argued that dynamic infrastructures are necessary to the creation and uptake of cloud-based services. Without the close integration of clients' IT and business assets enabled by dynamic infrastructures, the potential value of cloud-based services would almost certainly be lessened.

The growth of information, the audiences for information, and the value of information define the opportunities and challenges of the smarter planet. The question, then, is how companies can best gain the full benefits of that evolving global intelligence. Increasingly, traditional IT and business management solutions are not smart enough, secure enough, or resilient enough to keep up with the demands of rapidly expanding information resources and next-generation operational requirements. To fully enjoy these and future developments, we believe organizations should embrace dynamic IT and business infrastructures enabled by services and solutions like IBM's.

— Charles King, President and Principal Analyst for research firm Pund-IT Inc. , focuses on business technology evolution and interpreting the effects these changes will have on vendors, their customers, and the greater IT marketplace.0

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