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PureSystems: Solving the complexity of IT

It was not all that long ago that a company's data – from customer information to supplier costs to financial transactions — was kept in a series of file cabinets at corporate headquarters. Over the course of the last few decades however, technology has delivered a world in which an ever-increasing amount of data – on everything from product tracking systems to social media sites — can be captured and stored and as a result, analyzed and understood in ways that were previously unimaginable. Fast forward to today when companies are successfully using data to increase sales, reduce risk and eliminate inefficiencies – in effect, becoming smarter and more agile.

But this agility comes with a cost. The collection, storage and management of the data itself has become unwieldy. "As businesses grow and change, and as technology advances", says Tim Alpers, Systems Group Product Manager at IBM, "companies have developed a huge level of complexity within their IT environment. And that complexity has generated operational costs that are becoming impossible to deal with, in many respects." In fact, according to IDC, more than 70 percent of IT budgets on average are spent on operations and maintenance. And an increasing amount of resources in the form of human capital is needed to deal with set up, installation, deployment and lifecycle management. The more data we collect and leverage to become smarter, the more time and money we spend to maintain it.

Cracking the data center dilemma with PureSystemsTM

There are, in fact, several companies that offer pre-configured hardware and software created with the goal of simplifying IT environments. Called converged infrastructure solutions, they can reduce the complexity that comes with IT silos and server sprawl.

IBM has raised the bar and taken the idea of converged infrastructure to the next level by developing an entirely new category of solutions called "expert integrated systems". This initiative prepackages hardware and software into one system that is both intelligent and adaptive. According to Peter McCaffrey, Director of Marketing for PureSystems at IBM, it was built on the idea of offering the "flexibility of a general purpose system with the scalability of a cloud and the simplicity of an appliance."

IBM's new PureSystems offerings are the result of $2 billion in research and development and acquisitions over the past four years and are based on thousands of customer engagements. PureSystems was developed by integrating server, storage, networking and platform middleware and prepackaging them in the IBM factory into a single, ready-to-go box that is optimized for a company's specific workload or applications. In addition, the simplified experience includes a capacity to deliver new cloud services and applications significantly faster.

What IBM hopes will set PureSystems apart is its high level of integration and single management view. McCaffrey notes, "Many of our competitors, even though they're trying to drive to converged infrastructure, still have different interfaces for storage, networking and the compute resource." So instead of having multiple IT staff managing different interfaces, companies with PureSystems could potentially have a single individual manage the total data center structure, certainly an attractive feature for companies with limited IT resources.

And for those companies that balk at the dreaded "rip and replace" that comes with new systems, Alpers calms those fears, "One of the key aspects associated with the flexibility of PureSystems is that it can integrate into existing structures. Even though PureSystems looks at it from a total solution perspective, we have the ability to integrate into those current environments."

"PureSystems offer flexibility of a general purpose system with the scalability of a cloud and the simplicity of an appliance."

Establishing patterns of expertise

Developing this ready-to-go box that has the capacity to decrease IT costs was based in large part on distilling IBM's years of insight into what the company calls "patterns of expertise". These best practices epitomize IBM's expertise in installing and deploying systems around the globe. McCaffrey explains, "We've captured the collective wisdom that we gained from literally thousands of engagements through our services organizations, best practices that we've learned by dealing with different technologies, our research and development arm, and ongoing data center optimizations."

These patterns, which will allow systems to automatically handle basic tasks such as configuration and upgrades, are not limited to just IBM expertise. IBM partners and independent software vendors are codifying expertise around their own applications, and making those available to companies as part of the PureSystems family. IBM claims that as a result, companies can reduce the time spent deploying some programs from a few days to just one hour.

Changing the equation for midsize businesses

But it's about more than just saving time and money; PureSystems aims to deliver the fundamental idea of simplicity. The single, sleek box of PureFlexTM System, one of the first available models of the PureSystems family, stands in stark contrast to the complexity that exists in data centers today. And PureFlex System demonstrates more than just simplicity in design. By combining compute, storage, networking, virtualization and management into one infrastructure system, PureFlex also demonstrates simplicity in how companies can function.

For midsize companies, that simplicity can be a powerful tool. Alpers notes that for midsize firms, "We've been working with our mid-market customers for many, many years to identify, what are the key outcomes they need from their data centers, from their IT infrastructures? They need to be able to have high utilization of what they invest in their IT center."

For Managed Service Providers (MSP), the simplicity and high utilization means faster time to revenue and improved profitability. In addition, the application patterns delivered with IBM PureSystems will allow MSPs to provide higher value to their clients, giving them the opportunity to move from being infrastructure providers to application providers.

There's no doubt that technology should exist to not only make life and business easier but also to innovate and push boundaries. In many ways, it comes back to the 70 percent of the IT budget that companies spend on mundane tasks like maintenance and trying to keep the lights on. Clearly IBM is obsessed with increasing that remaining 30 percent of budget that is left for companies to use for true innovation. As McCaffrey says, "We're helping clients change that equation."

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