IBM offers starter pack for grid computing

Bundle includes blade server, management and scheduling software, as well as services for installation, testing and tuning

IBM plans to unwrap a bundle of software, hardware and services called Grid and Grow at the LinuxWorld show in San Francisco on Monday. The company hopes the bundle will act as a starter pack for mid-size and large companies wanting to move into grid computing, according to an IBM executive.

"We are seeing more and more customers constrained for computing capacity turning to grid [computing] to expand their capacity without having to completely rip and replace their [existing] computing environments," said Al Bunshaft, vice president of grid computing at IBM. "We chose a LinuxWorld rollout because of the very close relationship between the explosion of grid technology and [customers choosing] Linux as a primary operating platform."

Although some companies have adopted grid computing, others are put off the technology by what they see as its associated complexity, Bunshaft noted. "[Grid and Grow] is a very easy on-ramp to adopt the technology," he said. "It's the first building block -- and not a trivial one -- that allows a company to put in the environment and get significant value out of it."

Grid and Grow is based on IBM's eServer BladeCenter blade, with customers able to choose from three different processors, according to Bunshaft. There's the Intel Corp.-based eServer BladeCenter HS20, the IBM Power-based JS20 BladeCenter or the LS20 blade powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s Opteron chip.

The standard Grid and Grow configuration will include a single BladeCenter chassis with seven Intel-based blades, since this is the configuration IBM has seen most customers begin with, Bunshaft said. The bundle is extensible, so that customers purchasing Grid and Grow over time can expand to a full BladeCenter with 14 blades, he added.

IBM's Director management software is included with BladeCenter. Portions of Big Blue's Tivoli systems management software are also available as part of the bundle, including dynamic server provisioning, software license tracking and grid storage management.

Customers purchasing the bundle have a choice of scheduling software to help manage computing resources -- either IBM's LoadLeveler, Altair's PBS Professional, DataSynapse's GridServer or Platform's LSF, according to Bunshaft. The choice depends on the type of workload customers are planning to use and the industry they operate in, he said.

For an operating system, customers can choose from either Red Hat Inc. or Novell Inc.'s Suse, or Microsoft Corp.'s Windows or IBM's own AIX 5L Unix operating system, Bunshaft said.

Bundled services from IBM Global Services will include grid scheduler installation, tuning, testing and client training.

The starting price of the standard Grid and Grow bundle is $49,000, Bunshaft said. Initially, the bundle will be available only in the Americas, with a rollout to Europe and the Asia-Pacific planned for the remainder of this year, he said.

While the financial and industrial sectors have been early grid adopters, Bunshaft believes telecoms and digital media companies aren't far behind, and are already showing real interest.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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