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Netfinity to IBM PureSystems family: We’ve come a long way

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I have always been fascinated by computer hardware—and even more so by the software that I’ve implemented as an early adopter whenever there were opportunities. In this post I want to talk about my previous experience of tinkering with my first web server, and then compare that to the amazing hardware and software we have now.

A few years back, I decided to jump onto the Internet bandwagon to understand what happens from end-to-end when we click a hyperlink from the browser to a server and then back. I was able to get a hold of a Netfinity 5000 (image above), and I challenged myself to use open source software to build it. So I Googled everywhere to get information about how to install LAMP—Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP—and I went for the Ubuntu “Gutsy” as my Linux server operating system.

I was amazed how generous people are to share their software, expertise and time to help people like me. Long live the open source software movement! After a few days of painstaking trial-and-error installation, I finally had a working LAMP server with a wiki, a photo gallery and music streaming software. The Netfinity had some cool stuff like the self-diagnostics LED lights (exclamation points for errors) and the “hot-swap” disk drives that allow the increase or decrease of storage while the server is running. As we can see, back then there was already a drive for expert systems as well as scalability.

Last year, my “early adopter” passion struck again, and I provisioned my first virtual Windows 2008 64 bit server in just nine minutes! So about ten years ago, it took days to build an Internet-ready server, but today it just takes a few minutes. Actually, I have written another blog post about this. Today we also have a family of Expert Integrated Systems (EIS) called the IBM PureSystems offerings, which are different because of three unique attributes:

  1. Built-in expertise. This EIS represents the collective knowledge of thousands of deployments, innovative thinking, IT industry leadership, established best practices and the distilled expertise of business partners and solution providers captured in a deployable form from the base system infrastructure through the application.
  2. Integrated by design. All the hardware and software components are deeply integrated, tuned in the lab and packaged in the factory, by experts, into a single, ready-to-go system.
  3. Simplified experience. The whole lifecycle (which includes [a] designing what you need, [b] time you purchase, [c] setting up the system and [d] operating, maintaining and upgrading it over time) is done in an open manner, enabling participation by a broad ecosystem of partners to bring in their industry-optimized solutions.

Unfortunately, I have not had a chance yet to do any hands-on experimenting with these fantastic machines, but if you want to know more about how they are used in the cloud, check out these great blogs.

I strongly believe that with the proliferation of cloud, mobile and big data (that is, the “Internet of Things”), more of these Expert Integrated Systems will be needed to smartly support them. I’d be interested to hear about your server administration experiences (of both older and the modern machines) so that we may be able to stimulate new and innovative ideas from our hardware and software engineers. Please leave your thoughts in the comments area below.

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