Secrets of IBM Server Success

Michael Vizard

When it comes to battles over server market share there's a lot of tit for tat between IBM and Hewlett-Packard relative to who the top dog is. Given its focus on distributed computing, HP likes to focus a lot on unit sales, while IBM tends to favor revenue because its overall server portfolio includes mainframes that tend to go for millions of dollars. The latest server numbers favor IBM, but the two companies have played leap frog in terms of server sales for years.

But once you get past all the posturing, Doug Brown, global vice president of marketing for Power Series and z Systems, says some specific trends become more apparent.

Beyond gaining share in the Unix server space because of missteps by competitors, Brown notes that IBM's focus on analytics is driving sales of the Power Series server, which has a multithreaded architecture that accelerates the performance of those types of applications.

Meanwhile, since the launch of the zEnterprise mainframe platform last year, IBM has 68 new mainframe customers, in addition to selling new systems into accounts that already have mainframes in place. A lot of that activity, notes Brown, is being driven by the adoption of Linux on the mainframe, which many organizations are using to consolidate large number of x86 servers. With the recent launch of the z114 mainframe that is priced starting at $75,000, Brown says that IBM expects that mainframes will be a lot more competitive against other classes of servers in the months ahead.

Longer term, Brown says that IBM is starting to gain traction with its Smarter Computing strategy, which calls for enterprise architects to focus less on specific platforms in favor of dynamically running specific application workloads on the platform that is best optimized to run that type of application workload. As that strategy evolves, IBM expects to see a greater convergence between mainframe and distributed computing system architectures as part of what IBM calls a new era of hybrid computing.

At the end of the day, Brown attributes much of IBM's success of late to putting offerings in place that appeal to IT organizations that are coping with flat-to-declining IT budgets. Brown says IBM has been singularly focused on making sure customers get the best bang for the server buck possible.

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