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IBM software puts price tag on virtualization

Software lets a hosting firm use one server for several clients, charging based on processing power they each consume.

IBM has built software into its servers that allows corporate IT departments and hosting companies to charge for computing based on usage, the same way utilities such as gas and electricity are purchased.

On Thursday, IBM is expected to announce that its x86 processor-based servers and its mainframes now incorporate metering software from CIMS Labs, a company IBM acquired in January. Later this year, IBM's System p Unix servers will add the feature as well, a company representative said.

Executives at IBM said that the usage-tracking software, called IBM Tivoli Usage and Accounting Manager, will be a boost for virtualization, the process of running several instances of the same software program on a single machine.

For example, the Tivoli Usage and Accounting Manager will run in conjunction with VMWare's server virtualization software, which lets people run multiple operating system instances, a representative said.

With the usage-tracking software, a software hosting company could use one server for several customers and be able to charge based on how much processing power they each consumed, IBM said.

"A key inhibitor to widespread adoption of virtualization is the ability to track usage and accurately allocate costs of a shared infrastructure to internal departments, or in the case of IT outsourcing providers, to charge their clients for the amount of IT their are consuming," Rich Lechner, vice president of virtualization at IBM, said in a statement.

Pricing for the Tivoli software on x86 servers starts at $599 and costs $75,000 for mainframe customers in the United States.