To help customers optimize their data centers and save money, IBM will announce next month three new servers aimed at capturing "stranded" capacity, building on its existing ActivePower program. Another operational tool, called the QEDWiki Mashup Maker, will allow for easier integration of software management tools, an IBM executive said this week.
"Data center management is the hottest topic among our customers as they try to get a handle on operational costs," says Steven A. Mills, senior vice president and group executive of IBM's software group. "We see our customers struggling as they see a declining percentage of their budget going to doing things that bring added value to the business, and more and more going of the budget being dedicated solely to operational expenses."
Mills made his comments during an event on Wednesday to celebrate 40 years of IBM operations in Austin, Texas. The Austin facility has morphed from mostly assembly lines making Selectric typewriters in 1967, to today, when about 60 percent of the 6,200 Austin workers are involved research and development.
One of those projects came out of customers' desire to use Web 2.0 technologies to improve data center operations, mostly by allowing limited staffs to more easily take on new workloads.
QEDWiki Mashup Maker allows users to mix-and-match features from multiple Tivoli systems management software products, all in one user interface. To do this, IBM leveraged service-oriented architectures (SOAs) within existing Tivoli products. Then researchers created mashup "widgets" that can generate customizable user interfaces based on "Lego-style" building blocks, said Pat Griffin, a Tivoli software developer.
IBM has developed a widget library that can be accessed through IBM Director, Tivoli's core systems management application. The goal is to allow individuals with limited expertise to create "situational" applications that bridge traditional software packages.
So, for instance, users can 'mash' together widgets for configuration management, systems monitoring and change management -- functions that may have originally come from separate Tivoli products -- into one place. And this mix can change depending on the needs at the time, or who's doing the mashing.
"It's a tall order for any administrator to know all the different procedures" associated with different piece-parts of the systems management function, Griffin said. "By doing a remix of user interfaces we can create a queue of specific tasks that can quickly and easily reach across the various Tivoli-based tools."
IBM promises an announcement about Mashup Maker's availability "soon."
At the same time, power management has become a major technology driver for customers, and IBM researchers have been seeking to improve the ability for servers to operate at peak power usage efficiencies, Mills said.
One such project will be extended next month. Called ActivePower technology, formerly known as PowerExecutive, the software is currently available as a free monitoring tool with the purchase of IBM Director. As of now, though, ActivePower works only on BladeCenter and other x86-based servers. In November, IBM will extend ActivePower features to three new servers based on the Power 6 microprocessor, said Tom Keller, an IBM distinguished engineer.
ActivePower allows users to monitor the actual power draw and thermal loading conditions of servers in operation, Keeler says. Most data centers set power requirements for servers racks based on the Underwriters Laboratories specification for peak usage requirements. But when servers aren't running at peak loads, the result can be a lot of "stranded" or wasted power that is not used.
IBM studies have shown up to a 48 percent power-efficiency improvement by using intelligent power budgeting.
"Not only can ActivePower help reduce the load, it can help businesses get more blades into their chassis," Keeler said.
Darrell Dunn is a freelance reporter based in Fort Worth, Texas, with 20 years of experience covering business technology and enterprise IT. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.