Expert integrated systems: A new level of thinking?

How could your car determine what is the best route to go depending on your personal interests or simply the most efficient way to arrive at the destination? How could your refrigerator determine the need to refill milk or butter? How could your department store point you to the offerings or items that you are interested in, without you having to browse through the whole store and possibly miss something? And what would be the easiest way for your doctor to figure out the right prescription depending on your personal condition and earlier diseases?

No matter if these are examples from our real world or ideas for the future, all of them can make our lives easier in a certain way and make room for new ideas or to have more time available for more important things.

Companies are in a similar situation. The spending on server management and administration has grown rapidly and do not leave room to invest in innovation. Beside that, the CEOs and CIOs of many companies are currently also seeking a way to optimize the IT environment to manage the growing complexity in the data centers and to meet the changing requirements.

This quest is proven by the following studies:

If IT administration could be simplified, many companies would be able to invest more time and resources to their actual business and focus on innovation. For example, if additional computing resources are required to test an application or to run a new workload, making them available should not take weeks or months. To change the current situation, a complete mind change is needed.

A few weeks ago I read the following quote from Albert Einstein, which also reminds me that we sometimes need to look at things from a different perspective:

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

One example for a complete change of thinking in the IT space was the step towards virtualization in the x86 market. Before virtualizing an environment, we saw one workload per server which caused the number of installed servers to grow, but most of them had a very low utilization. Although this problem was addressed by virtualization, the efforts for management and administration grew further, because the number of virtual systems, in most cases, was higher than the number of physical systems before. As a result, the complexity of the environment grew in the server environment, but also in the storage and networking environment.

This complexity is being addressed by the new category of systems – the expert integrated systems. Consider that they do offer a consolidation platform for physical consolidation through the compute nodes and their infrastructure. There is no need anymore to separate the different server platforms into different environments. It is being more optimized by the integration of storage and networking solutions. This approach ensures compatibility and interoperability between compute nodes and storage or network. The expert integrated system from IBM provides even more advantages in conjunction with virtualization. Virtual servers can be provisioned within minutes instead of the days or weeks it took in the past to provision a physical system. Provisioning can then be managed based on application needs. If the application scales horizontally, additional resources can be made available if required to be used for workload optimization. Key requirements in such a scenario include reliability, availability, and serviceability (RAS) features, and the built-in security.

Because server management and administration costs are the biggest challenge in the IT environment an important question will be: How do we manage such a system?

Using one management application as a single point of control for the whole system would mean a big advantage compared to the situation in the past. With traditional systems, the server management did require at least one specialized tool (sometimes more), one or more storage management tools, and one or more network management tools to meet the administrators needs. All these tools need maintenance and the administration staff needs training on them. With the expert integrated systems from IBM, there is only one management application required that enables the system administrators to work more efficiently.

This management application is wrapped as an appliance and comes preinstalled to enable the system administrators to focus on their actual business from the beginning. It provides features for the server, for storage and network management, and also for the management of the virtualized systems. To work more efficiently, it is not important only to keep track of what virtual machine is running on which system. In addition, automation provides the capability to optimize the environment much further, for example when re-locating the virtual machines because the host system is taken offline.

Simple tasks, such as alerting in case of a failing component, should not detract a system administrator from working. This task can be automated through a call-home functionality to alert IBM support services of the failure. Monitoring of resources, gathering data about energy consumption, and managing the power used by the system are also provided.

The high level of integration is a key requirement for such environments and provides the base for the integrated expertise. Many decisions that were made by the system administrators in the past, are now handled by the system, based on defined rules. This approach enables a high level of automation and accelerates the implementation of a cloud environment.

Simply by looking at the IT environment and the business processes from a different perspective and using the integrated expertise of the IBM expert integrated systems, the IT administration becomes much more efficient. This integrated expertise lowers the operational expenses and reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the IT environment. At the same time, resources are made available for other tasks to drive innovation.


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Sigrun Eggerling

About Sigrun Eggerling

Sigrun Eggerling is a Client Technical Specialist at IBM in Germany. She has been working for IBM for 16 years including 14 years as a Presales Systems Engineer for System x and BladeCenter products. Her main responsibility is Systems Management. Sigrun is a Level 1 Certified IT Specialist. She holds a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on computer business data processing. You can reach Sigrun at segger@de.ibm.com and follow her on Twitter @eggerlings.