Supporting IBM PureSystems: Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater


It is either 20:00 Saturday or 01:00 Sunday depending on whether you look at where I’m coming from or going to.  I am currently  over the Atlantic returning from a visit to IBM Raleigh Triangle Park on the way to London whilst listening to Swedish House Mafia (SHM).

I loved SHM when they were three individual DJs, the best in the world.  They decided a few years ago to combine to form SHM.  They’ve changed how dance music is seen almost creating a new market for dance music.  They make me think that you should never assume you have achieved your best.  They knew as individuals they were good, but together there has been a whole new synergy.  This is how I feel about expert integrated systems, a whole new category of technical solutions created from existing components.

IBM GTS SO Delivery is good at what it does, that is why customers come to us.  We have clear processes in place executed by clearly defined service lines.  Service lines split across platform, storage and networking.  Over the years these service lines have developed best of breed approaches to their specific technology.  Many feel that it is hard for us to improve year on year.  PureSystems is the point where IBM can combine its support to follow a journey similar to SHM where three DJs, each notable in their own right, came together with such a synergy that they brought dance music into the mainstream music scene.

So where do we find the synergy in PureSystems?  I’m unashamedly a delivery person, I have been a software developer, database consultant, web solutioner, infrastructure designer over the last 20 plus years but I can’t get away from wanting to deliver to customers. My work always has a technical edge but I’m not as technically engrossed as many of my colleagues.  As soon as I was introduced to PureSystems in February this year, I started to think about how it would improve our service to our customers.

I’ve taken part in many discussions regarding how we are to support this new technology, specifically PureFlex.  With a colleague in the US I have developed and implemented the PureFlex delivery model.  The key element of defining the support model is that we need to change something that already works, this is not an easy thing to do.

20 years ago we had the client/server model.  This was a time individuals administered many aspects of a system and in some ways it was the wild west.  Having broken free from the mainframe we could deploy systems relatively quickly.  There was good methodology but control over who did what was difficult to achieve.  Over time the distributed computing model took over and the technology service lines came along.  The service lines brought with them structure and control.  The structure and control with distributed computing also reduced some of the flexibility enjoyed during the client/server era.  In some ways we sacrificed responsiveness for increased accountability, automation and reduced human error.

Many people have talked to me about breaking down the service line silo walls, working towards creating the generalist individual. Woah!  Hold it for a moment.  Do we want to return to the days of the wild west, no thank you.

I made a statement during a recent #expertsyschat tweet chat not to throw the baby out with the bath water.  PureFlex needs a generalist approach, but generalist individuals, I’m not so sure.  What do I mean?  A team that work together to cover all of the required skills is fine, so a team with skills in Unix, Intel,  Storage and throw in some network skills.  But don’t dilute their skillset, make sure they remain experts in their field.  But allow them to use the FSM to simplify their job.

They key to changing the way in which support is delivered is to identify what is repeatable, use the FSM to define work instructions.  Once you’ve created your work instructions you can create your generalist.  Don’t make them a technical generalist.  If you manage your environment on a day to day basis with the FSM menu, then you can leverage the expert integrated system to the full.  There is still the need for a few people that are experts in Unix, Intel, Storage and networks, but they are fewer than before.  Once a system is up and running, keep it simple.  Let the FSM work for you and reduce the support skillset required and the associated cost.

Having said all this do I think the traditional service lines are still required?  Yes,  without a doubt.

Make sure you build the right support model and make PureSystems work for you.

PureSystems brings together a number of traditional resources, maybe not as tuneful as SHM, but they are going to bring their own synergy.


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Kevin McCarthy

About Kevin McCarthy

Kevin McCarthy is an Infrastructure Architect for Services Delivery within IBM Global Technology Services®. He is based in Surrey, England. Kevin has over 20 years of experience in the IT industry and focuses primarily on Intel platforms. He is a currently a Lead Infrastructure Architect for an Italian client overseeing the adoption and implementation of IBM System X, IBM Flex Systems and IBM Power technology. Follow Kevin on Twitter @itydntk or email him at