Users turn to on-demand technology in data centres

IBM and rival vendors are pushing new technologies such as automated provisioning software and blade servers to help IT managers lower data centre costs and scale up processing capacity as needed

IBM and rival vendors are pushing new technologies such as automated provisioning software and blade servers to help IT managers lower data centre costs and scale up processing capacity as needed. And some users are buying into the idea.

For instance, Hewitt Associates, a Lincolnshire, Illinois-based company that offers human resources outsourcing services, last week began using 10 IBM blade servers running Linux to power a calculation engine developed to prepare pension projections for workers at Hewitt's clients.

Speaking at an infrastructure simplification briefing held here by IBM, Hewitt Chief Information Officer Perry Cliburn said the company initially built the Smalltalk-based calculation engine to run on IBM zSeries mainframes within Parallel Sysplex clusters.

But the engine put too much stress on the zSeries CPUs, consuming about 1000 million instructions per second (MIPS) of mainframe processing power when demand for pension data was at its highest, Cliburn said. He added that the blade servers are expected to help Hewitt reduce CPU workloads and cut the cost of operating the system, which includes a client version of DB2, by as much as 90 %.

Another user that is shifting some of its data processing to blade servers is Stamford, Connecticut-based NYFIX , which processes stock trades for Wall Street brokerage firms.

Jim Strasenburgh, director of computer services at NYFIX, said the company is developing about 50 applications that will run across a mixed installation of Linux-based blade servers from IBM and Unix-based devices made by Sun Microsystems NYFIX plans to start using the applications within the next couple of weeks to process trades for New York-based Cantor Fitzgerald LP.

Strasenburgh said NYFIX is trying to build systems that can be reconfigured on demand for its customers. The use of blade servers also gives us a high-availability architecture with lots of redundancy, he noted.

To make it easier for IT managers to redirect data traffic between various servers, IBM in mid-October plans to introduce a set of server provisioning tools code-named Symphony, said Mark Shearer, vice president of eServer products. IBM disclosed initial details last month.

To date, a small number of companies have taken steps to install technology that can shift data flows between servers on an as-needed basis, said Clay Ryder, an analyst at The Sageza Group in Mountain View, California.

Further adoption will likely be driven by server consolidation efforts and competitive comparisons, Ryder added. If Nike does it and cites great cost savings, then Reebok is going to notice, he said.

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