With LinuxCon North America upon us, I have been thinking a lot lately about the Power proposition of “open”. So, what? How does that help the Enterprise? My thought process around these questions flowed like this: open provides choice, choice enables flexibility, flexibility ensures greater efficiency in solutions, better solutions reduce expense. My conclusion: the Power System strategy around “open” ultimate saves customers money.
As an engineer, I like logical answers. This question about openness lent itself nicely to the mathematical Transitive Property of Equality. Remember it from math class? If a=b and b=c, then a =c. Applying the property to this situation, one idea leads to another through several steps to the final point where we can simplify the whole progression down to a final statement that the first equals the last. For my conclusion on the value of Power openness to hold, we need to evaluate each step in chain.
Assertion #1: open provides choice. Open choices occur both in the software and hardware layers on Power Systems. The opensource Linux operating system has enabled applications to be written with common tools, across multiple hardware platforms such that Enterprises now have open alternatives for many commonly closed environments. Databases provide an excellent example area – the market has traditionally been dominated by big, proprietary products but now has open, general solutions such as PostgreSQL and MariaDB as well as a whole plethora of newer specialized databases such as Redis, MongoDB, and CouchDB.
But open versus closed is not the only software choice. For open software, these additional decisions apply:
How will the software be acquired? It may come in the Linux distribution, be built from scratch, be distributed in binary form in the open source community, or be available from an Enterprise provider.
Who will support the software? You can support yourself, pay your Linux operating system vendor, rely on the community, or enlist the service of a third party like IBM on an Enterprise application provider.
What version of the software will get deployed? While Linux distributions tend to bundle a version they deemed stable at the time of the distribution creation, additional options include the latest and greatest in the community, the last stable version in the community, or just about any version in existence.
How many customization are applied to the software? The range of choices begins with none but also includes a few optimizations to any and all features needed to create a competitive advantage.
Options with software abound!
For hardware, IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation Partners like Google, nVidia, and Mellanox are all committed to innovating around the Power processor-based systems from the chip level up through the whole platform. Choice has already begun in market with Tyan's 1-socket, 2U "Habenero" platform and new proposals such as the CP1 processor for the China market and the Open Compute Platform for Power from Rackspace both revealed at OpenPOWER Summit earlier this year in San Jose, CA. Thus, open has truly enabled choices not available in a closed world.
Assertion #2: choice enables flexibility. Many of the choices are completely independent. While proprietary software and support generally come from the application vendor, many of the combinations of open source options are independent. For example, as a client you might elect to purchase SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 12 from SUSE and run it on IBM Power Servers, pay IBM for support, purchase MariaDB from MariaDB the company and pay them for enterprise support, while highly customizing your own Apache Tomcat webserver pulled directly from the Apache community. Further, if you really wants a certain feature in the Apache webserver, you may design it, implement it, use it, and even offer it back to the community for their benefit. Try that with proprietary software!
Assertion #3: flexibility ensures efficient solutions. When you can tailor the solutions to your needs, even to the point of writing code, solutions become exactly what the business needs. Proprietary software is like buying shoes: you goes to the shoe store, select from a limited set of models, each with a standard set of sizes and a limit number of colors. Open source enables a model of buying the type shoes one wants, in the size you need, and colors you prefer--even designing a custom shoe if so desired. One foot bigger than another? Easy. Feet bigger than a 10 ½ but not quite an 11? No worries. Got two left feet? No problem. Open source allows Enterprises the flexibility to enable what they need or invent it when needs are not met.
Assertion #4: efficiency reduces expense. When Enterprises get what they need, they save money through efficient operations – no unnecessary features, no software that almost does the job but not quite, and fewer hours on the phone understanding errant software behavior. This efficiency continues across hardware platforms as well. PostgreSQL running on a Ubuntu Server 14.04 operating system in a KVM guest behaves the same whether it runs on x86, Power, or another architecture. Further, administration of this environment will be nearly identical with the number of people needing to know the hardware architecture reduced to just a select few. In the “old days”, a different hardware architecture meant a different operating system, a new hypervisor, and maybe even a different application – a whole different IT team. Enterprises cannot afford these expenses. Open solutions keep an IT Staff running efficiently and optimally as they deploy the right solution on the best hardware.
Application of Transitive Property (Conclusion): open means expense reduction. Tying all these steps together, Enterprises have now been empowered through open source software to take control of their choices, implement what solutions they need, and use their operational efficiencies to invest in the next sets of innovation. “Open” saves money. With Power System, you get open choices with hardware and software. Are you getting the benefit of open or are you living in the past?
If you would like to learn more about Linux on Power and how Power Systems delivers choice through openness, look us up at LinuxCon in Seattle the week of August 17th. The IBM Power Team can be found in booth 316 at the Expo. If you did not make it to Seattle, do not hesitate to reach out and let us know how we can help you exploit open.