IBM is to roll out a set of intelligent system-provisioning tools next month, which can track the use of mainframes, servers and storage devices and automatically redirect data flows as needed.
This week IBM will announce a tool called Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator, which focuses on redirecting internet traffic among different web servers. The tool, which is due for release late this month, will be joined later this year and in 2004 by software that can support CRM systems and other complex applications.
The overall product offering, codenamed Symphony, is being designed to help IT managers take advantage of underused computing resources and move processing workloads off systems nearing their capacity thresholds.
The provisioning tools being developed by IBM are based on technology that it picked up through acquiring Canadian software company Think Dynamics. IBM's planned rollout follows announcements of data centre provisioning technologies and services by Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems as part of their respective Utility Data Center and N1 initiatives.
Forrester Research analyst Richard Fichera said IBM would be the first major supplier to come to market with software that gives users the ability to provision server resources on the fly.
"This is a really important capability for anybody attempting to do virtualised data centres," he said. "If IBM can truly do what they're claiming, this raises the bar for other players."
However, he added that it could take years for IBM and its rivals to flesh out the provisioning functionality. IBM needs to prove that its tools work, "and then start working through the list of applications that people have trouble managing".
Pricing could also be an obstacle for some users. IBM said Intelligent Orchestrator will start at less than $20,000, but total costs for wider rollouts of Symphony products and services could reach several million dollars for companies with large, distributed computing installations.
The Symphony software will support multivendor computing installations and standards such as XML, the Open Grid Services Architecture, Java, the Simple Network Management Protocol and Soap, said Jocelyn Attal, a vice president at IBM. The tools will be able to gather information about the applications that a company is running "and develop a workload model based on resource requirements", she added.
IBM itself is using Intelligent Orchestrator to help manage traffic spikes on the servers supporting the website for the US Open tennis tournament this week.
Amy Wohl, an analyst at Wohl Associates, said IBM, HP and Sun are all well positioned in the emerging market for data centre provisioning tools.
"Customers want to go to an IBM, HP or Sun to help them deal with their messy heterogeneous environments," Wohl said. "They don't want to buy this from 12 different niche vendors."
Thomas Hoffman writes for Computerworld