IBM has unveiled a service that allows companies to outsource management of their data centre and get billed based on service usage volume - as opposed to upfront fees - without transferring data centre IT assets and employees to the outsourcing provider.
Previously, clients had to ferry over to IBM related IT assets and employees if they wanted flexible billing on outsourcing projects.
The new service, called Strategic Outsourcing Flexible Support Option, will offload datacentre management tasks from the client's IT department, thus saving clients money and freeing the staff to do higher-level work and improve the data centres operation.
"Existing customer environments are often siloed, especially if the company has gone through acquisitions or implemented a variety of application suites. The company ends up with islands of technology," said Dev Mukherjee, vice president of e-business marketing and strategy at IBM Global Services.
"We bring business discipline to turn those islands into a pool of technology. This pooling approach increases data centre flexibility and utilisation."
With this new service, IBM's Global Services unit remotely manages a company's data centre from an IBM facility, using its Universal Management Infrastructure (UMI).
UMI is a combination of systems management, software deployment and configuration management software, architecture workflows and outsourcing methodologies.
Mukherjee said four major steps are involved in rolling out the service for a client.
First, IBM carries out a thorough assessment of the client's data centre, to map the infrastructure and identify ways to improve it.
Second, IBM moves on to consolidating and standardising the data centre environment, to simplify its management.
Third, UMI, created two years ago and rolled out last year, is deployed to link the client's data centre with the IBM remote management site.
Fourth, IBM provides ongoing remote management, most of which is automated, of the client's entire data centre, or of parts of it, including applications, storage devices, servers and networks.
Pricing varies depending on the scope of the engagement and is based on the number of components being managed and on service usage volumes.
This service is likely to appeal to chief information officers who want to test the on-demand outsourcing waters without committing to a full-blown engagement, said IDC analyst Doug Chandler.
"It could be a first step to a broader outsourcing agreement for some customers who are still feeling their way around the utility model and on demand approach," he added.
Although remote management by no means new nor unique, IBM's new twist here is its offer to manage entire data centres that have a variety of heterogeneous software and hardware products.
"In most cases, remote management tends to be much narrower, involving some servers or a network, and it's typically the vendor of those products the one doing the remote management," Chandler said. "Here IBM is offering to provide remote management of a data centre environment, as opposed to individual devices, which is what you usually get."
Juan Carlos Perez writes for IDG News Service