IBM pushes virtual services with new on-demand datacentres

IBM plans to open 10 more pay-as-you-go, on-demand datacentres by the end of the year, part of a push to offer users virtual...

IBM plans to open 10 more pay-as-you-go, on-demand datacentres by the end of the year, part of a push to offer users virtual resources that can be pooled and made available where needed.

The cornerstone of this programme is IBM's Universal Management Infrastructure (UMI) - a set of software, architecture and best practices that allows multiple business units to draw on virtualised resources. 

"We have clients today that say they want utility infrastructure in place 'that allows me to scale up and down more easily, that allows me to take the assets that I have in my datacentre and make them more efficient," said Mike Riegel, director of IBM Global Services. 

IBM operates about 300 datacentres around the world, and some on-demand centres, with more planned in the US, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the UK, Australia, Japan and Singapore, which will be coupled with existing centres. It plans to open four or five more of the on-demand centres in early 2005, said Riegel. 

The new datacentres include capabilities that can be used in-house by corporate IT departments that do not want to outsource, said Riegel. UMI, for instance, can support a heterogeneous environment that allows users to closely monitor IT usage and charge their own business units on a pay-as-you-go pricing model. 

While they differ on the details and approaches, other major IT suppliers such as Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems are also expanding services and utility pricing models, as well as promising datacentre models that respond quickly to change. 

At the Afcom datacentre conference in Atlanta on Monday, user reaction to the idea of moving to an outsourcing model or adopting pay-as-you-go pricing was mixed. 

One visitor at the conference, Michael Crumpler - the manager of server support at media conglomerate Cox Enterprises - is a heavy user of Sun servers. He said he has heard similar pitches from that company. 

Crumpler's major concern about utility models, regardless of whether the equipment is located with an outsourced service supplier or in his datacentre, is one of control.

"I'm not controlling my assets any more," he said. That is not something Cox is ready to give up, except in the case of servers running non-critical services such as conference room scheduling. 

But Ayman Nassar, datacentre manager at Prince George Community College, said he is interested in the model. The college already leases its hardware, which he sees as a first step to utility pricing, if it is similarly cost effective. 

"We are moving toward that model of,'pay for only what you really need, as you need it'," he said. 

Services have been a growth area for suppliers. Management Science Associates, a firm that offers statistical analysis services, has added datacentre outsourcing services and, after filling up a 10,000-square-foot facility is now planning to build one four times larger, said Mar Simsic, information systems group director.

Patrick Thibodeau writes for Computerworld

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