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A Day at the Data Center

September 29, 2010

Last week I had the privilege of visiting IBM’s Data Center in Research Triangle Park (Raleigh NC) and got a “tour” of the facility along with other analysts at a special event hosted by Steve Mills with Al Zollar and Robert LeBlanc. It was very impressive. It’s huge – over 60,000 square feet (the size of two football fields) and it houses much of the IBM hosted Cloud offering. It’s also built to be green with highly energy efficient facilities management capabilities – it’s fully instrumented and controlled with analytical software that allows dynamic control of operations to react to fluctuating circumstances, thus allowing a “Smarter Data Center” that can react to optimize efficiency under changing conditions. While our promised “tour” was really a visit to a board room with a glass window overlooking the interior of the facility, it was impossible not to be impressed.

But the facility is not as interesting to me as what’s inside it. IBM’s goal is to seamlessly link IT and the Data Center, giving IT control of resources through a modular design that allows for easy rapid scalability and high availability. This, of course, is the heart of their Cloud offering. When we’ve surveyed developers about Cloud leaders during the last year, they’ve consistently identified IBM as the top provider for private Clouds (Google gets the nod for public Cloud). That measured perception is justified by the reality of the Data Center I saw. It’s not just about chillers and operations management, but also about the fully mastered modular approach that IBM has, with integrated software analytics and real-time monitoring and automation – truly world-class.

IBM’s goal is to provide solutions that span all the way from the Data Center to remote endpoints. But don’t expect one of those end points to be your cell phone. Strange as it seems, a mobile strategy that includes smartphones as clients is not somethng that IBM articulates, even though most large enterprises are now very concerned with this. It’s almost as if IBM is trying to morph into Siemens – concentrating now on industrial solutions. The Smarter Planet initiative is aimed squarely at that space. It’s an interesting space, and one that surely will grow vigorously in the future so a concentration there may provide more potential than their traditional market. It will be interesting to see.

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