Often we look at large complex companies like IBM, HP and Microsoft and don't realize that what we are seeing is just the small part of the company we touch. If we are focused on storage, we see a storage company; if services, a services company; servers, a server company, and so on. It isn't often we see the company as a whole because most of the time it really isn't. To be manageable, large companies are divided into divisions, each with their own profit and loss requirements and focus. In addition, they often have their own sales forces or specialists, marketing organizations, and clearly their own distinct and unique staff.
What you may not realize is that these organizations generally don't cooperate often or well because they compete for internal resources and try to assure that the other division gets more of the corporate burden (the charges that support the central corporate umbrella structure that makes this one company).
This makes efforts like the recently announced IBM Information Infrastructure both rare and potentially very powerful, because they take a number of divisions and create value, not individually, but by a solution that spans them. It is in these rare times that you see the power of a company like IBM and that is why, when it happens, it is worth talking about.
Fractured Data Centers
As we generally either know or learn painfully, interoperability is something we need and don't have. Whether it is systems from the same vendor or systems from different vendors, there is never enough of it and we are often surprised by the fact that where we think it should it exist, it actually doesn't.
This tends to break data centers up into groups of poorly coupled technology islands where the responsibility for getting products we didn't build to actually work as advertised somehow became our responsibility, and vendors do the finger point dance. You know this dance well; it is where they say the problem is the "other guy's fault."
This is why a lot of us like to use expensive services companies because they get to deal with this problem even though it really is no more theirs than ours. But when a services organization like IBM Global Services has executive ties into the hardware and software solution, they actually can own the problem and assure that everyone who is responsible for it steps up.
IBM Information Infrastructure
In a nutshell, that is what IBM is promoting with this effort. The idea is that this is an IBM-driven alliance of IBM divisions measured not on individual sales but on getting this stuff to work together without unduly aggravating IT management.
While they clearly will argue the financial benefits of an integrated and centrally managed solution of this complexity, the real value is not what a solution like this brings. It's what it doesn't bring. This kind of solution lacks the mind-numbing aggravation that cross-vendor or even typical cross-division solutions typically bring.
That's what makes efforts like this important and the reason enterprise IT shops generally like them a great deal. You can find out more about the Storage System (IBM XIV), but the important part is less the plumbing and more the fact that you can trust the general contractor.
From a personal standpoint, the division that largely drove this solution was the one in IBM that I used to work for (storage division), and it is always a pleasure to see them execute at this level.