IBM shot back at Oracle's Exadata platform this week with new server products that combine IBM hardware and software in preconfigured systems for companies doing large-scale data analytics and transaction processing.
The products mark a new push by IBM toward selling complete systems based on its own hardware and software that are optimized for particular workloads. Executives suggested Wednesday that more preconfigured systems will follow from IBM, for digital archiving and retrieval, collaboration, and "business process applications."
[ Fine-tune your network in two weeks -- for free! InfoWorld's Networking Boot Camp will help you double-check the fundamentals and show you how to optimize your infrastructure. The email classes start Monday, April 12, 2010. Sign up now! ]
"Today we are talking mostly about business analytics and transaction process management, but we are working on all five of these areas," said Ambuj Goyal, general manager for development and manufacturing with IBM's Systems and Technology Group, during a launch event at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California.
IBM introduced two Smart Analytics Systems, the 5600 and 9600, that combine its x86 or System z hardware with its Cognos analytics and InfoSphere data warehousing software. They are for organizations that crunch large volumes of data, such as banks trying to spot fraudulent ATM transactions or utility companies managing "smart energy" grids. They follow the release last year of the 7600, which is based on IBM's System p Unix servers.
The 5600 is on sale now and the 9600 will be available by the end of the quarter, IBM said. Both are offered with optional solid-state drives for faster performance. There is currently no SSD option for the Unix version.
IBM also introduced the pureScale Application System, another preconfigured package that includes its Power 770 server hardware, WebSphere Application Server and the pureScale version of IBM's DB2 database, which was released in December and can scale across up to 128 nodes. Customers can start with a two-node cluster with a single Power 7 processor in each server, then scale out to build a much larger system, IBM said. The entry price for the two-node system will be in the "tens of thousands" of dollars, IBM said. Final pricing will be announced later this quarter when the product ships.
Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice said the systems mark a new approach for IBM. "The whole model for how IBM goes to market is starting to change, and it will change pretty rapidly, with the idea that they are going to advantage their own software stack as opposed to having a server unit that's completely neutral for all of the ISVs [independent software vendors]," he said.
The systems follow the September launch of Oracle's Exadata Database Machine, which combines Oracle software with Sun hardware and storage technologies in a preconfigured system for data warehousing and online transaction processing. IBM's message on Wednesday echoed Oracle's when it launched Exadata -- that the systems are "integrated at every level -- from microprocessors to hardware and software."
Both vendors say configuring and tuning the systems in-house allows them to provide better performance and faster time to deployment. That may be so, but there are also trade-offs, analysts said.