GRID computing was the main theme of a technology tour to the US that IBM New Zealand treated one local partner and a number of customers to last month.
Heading the party was Catherine Blinkhorn, sales manager of IBM New Zealand’s systems and technology group, who says the visitors received a high-level view of the vendor’s approach to the subject.
The group visited IBM development centres in Poughkeepsie, New York; and Austin, Texas, where the company’s 64-bit Power5 chip is produced.
Blinkhorn says grid computing is an element of IBM’s on-demand computing strategy, which permeates the company’s approach to hardware, software and services.
“The trip was fantastic in helping our customers really understand on-demand and most of them walked out of the tour not only understanding it, but believing it, which is a very powerful story,” says Blinkhorn.
IBM New Zealand was unable to provide details of those who attended the tour, as the visitors were under nondisclosure agreements.
IBM’s on-demand computing model revolves around breaking down vertical silos in IT infrastructure and making processes horizontal to enable end-to-end integration in an organisation, says Blinkhorn.
This requires open standards, which is why IBM has invested US$1 billion in Linux over recent years, she says.
On-demand computing enables companies to become more responsive and more adaptable to meet business change, at a time when customers are demanding higher service levels and specific response times.
“I see that as part of grid - being able to define what you want,” says Blinkhorn.
Organisations which cannot afford or are unwilling to adopt this approach internally will increasingly connect to grid services.
Virtualisation is the main driver of on-demand and grid computing, says Blinkhorn, adding many New Zealand organisations are currently in this phase.
“Virtualisation helps enable utilisation of idle resources, which is what grid is largely about,” she says.
IBM shares this vision with Oracle and regards the grid as the next evolution in computing.
However, unlike Oracle, IBM does not supply the applications that share resources on the grid, but provides hardware and software that enable this model.
“We have grid enablement across our hardware and software portfolio,” Blinkhorn says.
She says IBM has invested heavily in reducing the cost of its hardware to encourage grid computing with products such as its Linux-based Open Power servers, which provide 64-bit computing with the affordability of an Intel server.
A major focus of IBM’s strategy also involves providing consulting services to help customers achieve horizontal integration across business processes, says Blinkhorn.
But grid computing is still mainly applied for computational purposes to solve complex problems, predominantly in areas of medical or scientific research, she says.
“There are university research organisations in New Zealand using this kind of grid computing capability. These organisations are early adopters in grid computing.”
One local organisation, which Blinkhorn could not name, is using this approach to help solve a medical problem.
“Grid is not just enabling technology, it is also enabling collaboration between people to solve problems,” she says.
This year’s technology tour is the second Blinkhorn has led and she aims to involve more partners next time.
One of the highlights on the tour was a talk on virtualisation by Jim Rymarczyk, IBM fellow and chief virtualisation technologist, says Blinkhorn. Rymarczyk has been with IBM since 1968.