Unisys lays out services-led plan for datacenters

Unisys will compete more directly with HP and Sun in the datacenter with its new servers and infrastructure management suite

Unisys announced new servers and a suite of infrastructure management software Tuesday that are aimed at giving it a bigger role to play in customers' datacenters, where it will compete more directly with Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

The new hardware includes Unisys' first blade servers, the ES5000 family, due next month, and new and upgraded ES3000 midrange servers based on quad-core Intel Xeon processors. The company has also refreshed and rebranded some datacenter management software that it launched early last year.

The products continue a turnaround strategy that Unisys began in 2005. A focus on high-end servers, outsourcing and systems integration had led to financial losses, and Unisys devised a restructuring plan to enter faster-growing markets including open-source software, security and infrastructure management.

The strategy leans heavily on partners. The blade servers will be supplied by another, unnamed server vendor and tagged with the Unisys brand, while the infrastructure software includes third-party products from Enigmatic and Scalent Systems.

The strategy is to lead with services offerings to help customers build what Unisys calls a "real-time infrastructure" -- one where IT adapts quickly to business needs -- and to supplement those the hardware and software products, said Rich Marcello, president of Unisys' systems and technology group.

"This isn't just a product sell. The real-time infrastructure is relatively complicated to implement so you need a services-led strategy," he said. "Many of our competitors will talk about doing RTI but what they are doing is trying to sell you a complete stack."

Unisys' product line-up is not greatly different from that of Sun, HP and others. But its strategy differs in that it aims to capture clients through consulting and service engagements and then bring in the products they need for a project, including gear from other vendors, said Jean Bozman [cq], a research vice president with IDC.

"They're not saying their value is to deliver everything with a Unisys label. Their value is to leverage their experience with customer engagements to bring products together and make sure they all work as part of an overall solution," Bozman said.

The new infrastructure management suite piggy-backs on the trend of helping customers align their IT infrastructures to business requirements. This includes using virtualization and systems management software to reallocate computing resources to meet changing workloads.

Called the Unisys Infrastructure Management Suite it includes three parts: uAdapt, for shifting workloads between servers to get better rates of utilization; uOrchestrate, for automating processes and meeting service-level agreements; and uChargeback, which lets big companies measure server usage and charge individual departments for computing services they use, Marcello said.

Unisys announced some infrastructure management software early last year, including a home-grown product called Enterprise Orchestration. That product has been "superseded" by uOrchestrate, which is based on software from Enigmatic. UChargeback is a rebranded version of last year's Real Time Chargeback, and uAdapt is a new offering based on software from Scalent Systems.

The three products work with any hardware platform running Windows, Linux, or Unix, and all are certified to run VMware's virtualization technology. UAdapt and uOrchestrate also work with Citrix Systems' Xen virtualization technology, and uChargeback will be certified for Xen shortly, a Unisys spokesman said.

The blade servers will come with "flexible I/O configuration options and advanced local and remote management interfaces," Unisys said. The company also plans to expand its high-end ES7000 line with a quad core, eight-processor server due in the second quarter. Later this year it will introduce brand new ES7000 models from a partnership with Japan's NEC.

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