IBM & the Virtual Chargeback

CIMS Lab acquisition makes chargeback, a key piece of virtualization

January 26, 2006

3 Min Read
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Moving to address the business end of virtualization, IBM today acquired CIMS Lab, a Roseville, Calif.-based private company that sells software that monitors and reports on IT resource usage. (See IBM Acquires CIMS Labs.)

IBM did not disclose the purchase price.

CIMS Labs primary product line monitors data on storage, servers, and applications, and creates chargeback and management reports. The idea is to help organizations bill internal departments and business units for the IT resources used.

IBM sees this as a missing piece of storage virtualization. Because virtualized storage consists of pooled resources, it is difficult to track and determine how resources are being used, according to director of director of storage sofware strategy Ron Riffe.

“Instead of counting individual boxes, companies are working with a shared set of resources,” Riffe says. “CIMS software lets them track utilization and bill their constituents for resources they’re using.”He also hopes having these capabilities might speed adoption of storage virtualization, which has lagged server virtualization so far. (See Virtually Nowhere.)

“If your internal financial systems are built around rigid physical asset accounting, the possibility of putting virtualization in gives you a little bit of a pause,” Riffe says. “Customers ask, 'How am I going to account for those things?' ”

CIMS Lab’s software isn’t storage specific. It also tracks servers, operating systems, databases, and email. But it will play a role in storage gear such as IBM’s SAN Volume Controller (SVC) as Big Blue -- like other storage and network vendors -- casts its virtualization net over servers, storage, and applications.

IBM plans to integrate CIMS Lab technology into its IBM Director systems management software, as well as throughout its Tivoli software product line. For example, Riffe says IBM will build CIMS’s reporting capabilities into IBM’s billing systems. CIMS Lab’s software can also build reports on virtual disk allocation used by SVC customers.

Riffe says IBM and CIMS Lab have about 170 joint customers and CIMS Lab products already work with IBM software.Other storage vendors have addressed the need to query and charge business users for specific applications. EMC added Chargeback Reporter application for its Centera archiving system last March to let administrators link content to specific business units. (See EMC 'Charges' Into Archives.) Symantec’s Veritas CommandCentral also claims storage and CPU utilization reporting based on technology that Veritas acquired form Ejasent two years ago. (See Veritas Releases New Software.) Hewlett-Packard acquired chargeback when it bought SRM vendor AppIQ, and Softek also has chargeback in its SRM application. (See HP Chomps AppIQ & Peregrine.)

Riffe says CIMS’s software will be used with its TotalStorage DR550 archiving system that competes with Centera, and across its SRM and other software products.

“If you have a physical asset shared by different clients of yours, what CIMS will do is report on that,” he says of using chargeback for the DR550. “But it’s not just limited to our archiving system, it’s pervasive across our infrastructure.”

The problem exists mainly in larger companies. Perhaps that’s why, according to Riffe, about 60 percent of IBM’s server and storage virtualization customers are SMBs. The notion of chargeback to business units might scare off some organizations.

Tony Parziale, CIO of Palm Beach Community College, says his college virtualizes servers and storage but decided not to charge individual units for what they use because it might actually limit productivity.“We’ve had discussions about that,” he says, “but we don’t want to dissuade people from doing their jobs.”

An IBM spokesman says the company plans to offer all 21 CIMS Lab employees positions with Big Blue and will maintain its Roseville office.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Softek Storage Solutions Corp.

  • Symantec Corp.

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