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Does IBM use cloud?

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When I started dealing with cloud computing, about one year ago, I happened to ask myself: does IBM use it?  In fact it is something I often wonder about when I approach a new technology as part of an IBM offering, for at least two reasons. First, clients always ask for references when you propose something new. External references are better perceived, but mentioning internal IBM projects, about which we can provide more detailed information, can help also. Second, and more important, if IBM uses it, I can take advantage of my colleagues’ experience in designing and implementing my solution.

Luckily, I did not have to go too far from my office in Rome Tivoli lab to find an interesting example implemented by IBM Tivoli Development Services.

IBM Tivoli Development Services provide the IBM Software Group with IT services to support the software development cycle. In recent years, because of continuous acquisitions and to the growing complexity of the Tivoli development organization (which counts more than 30 labs all over the world), IBM Tivoli Development Services had to revolutionize their approach to service delivery.

The issues they had to address where manifold:

  • High capital, management and administration costs, and low efficiency, with an high number of underutilized (average utilization of 5 to 9 percent) physical resources
  • Lack of visibility, control and automation across IT
  • Manual request workflows, capacity management and administration processes with average delivery times for new resource requests of weeks to month
  • Lack of standardization (different tools and approaches) and unified virtualization strategies (low virtualization in some cases, growing and uncontrolled number of virtual images in others)
  • IT infrastructure not supporting the dynamic needs of an Agile focused development organization

As depicted in the following picture, the solution they designed involved the implementation of a geographically dispersed secure private cloud that could be managed and monitored through a central site.

In particular:

  • The central Management Services, based on Tivoli Service Automation Manager, provide developers and testers with predictable and rapid access to securely reserve, provision, and deploy development and test environments. Moreover, they allow users to manage virtual images that can be certified, stored, centralized and published.
  • The central Monitoring Services, mainly based on IBM Tivoli Monitoring, IBM Directory, Tivoli Performance Analyzer, Tivoli Netcool OMNIbus, and Tivoli Business Service Manager, monitor resources, service requests, operating systems, and energy usage. Moreover, the integration with Tivoli Application Dependency Discovery Manager and Tivoli Asset Manager for IT centralizes the information needed in order to track the life cycle of managed assets.
  • Users are authenticated against IBM’s employee directory to quickly provide secure access to the cloud.
  • Information is collected and presented through customized dashboards, like the one shown in the next picture. The dashboard allows administrators to track performance, availability, utilization and capacity of resources, and to proactively forecast and plan for future needs.

As it often happens when moving from traditional to cloud IT, the solution has been implemented through phases, mainly involving centralization, consolidation, virtualization, and automation, but of course further steps are still ongoing, as part of the optimization phase. Anyway several significant benefits have already been achieved in less than two years:

  • Lowered cost: Consolidation and virtualization allowed the avoidance of $10.4M in capital expense and $11.5M in operational expense.
  • Reduced real estate: The needed physical space was reduced by 15% while building capacity for 5500 virtual machines.
  • Improved efficiency: The average time to provision a new server was reduced from four days to 15-20 minutes while infrastructure utilization was raised to 60%.
  • Accelerated innovation: The IT staff shifted its focus from administration to providing additional value to internal clients.
  • Boosted productivity: The lab community was provided with the ability to capture and rapidly share environments during development and testing phases in days or hours rather than months.

When I was told this story I was a little skeptical. Geographically dispersed cloud, millions of dollars in cost savings, several Tivoli products integrated in few months: It was too good to be true. So I took advantage of my friends in the Tivoli lab (I told you that internal references are better) to touch it with my own hands. Of course I was positively surprised: not only was it real, but it became a valuable asset for my further cloud projects, in terms of skills, experiences, and intellectual capital on a comprehensive cloud solution.

The list of benefits this solution has brought to IBM has therefore to be enhanced with the benefits it has brought to IBM customers, that is, the availability of knowledge and assets that have been successfully reused in actual customer implementations.

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