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Commentary: A vision for organic IT

IBM's moves to promote its e-business "on demand" initiative could help it grab the lead in an emerging data center architecture that will cut IT costs in half.

Commentary: A vision for organic IT
By Forrester Research
Special to CNET
April 4, 2003, 9:30AM PT

By Frank E. Gillett, Principal Analyst

IBM's offerings for "organic IT" are rich, but its product portfolio clouds a clear vision. To win, IBM must buy provisioning start-ups, shift marketing to organic IT's practical benefits, and implement quick-start service offerings.

Forrester spoke with Alan Ganek, IBM's vice president of autonomic computing, about the company's e-business "on demand" initiative, which makes IT delivery responsive to varying business needs. IBM's move bundles disparate research and product efforts under one name to deliver what Forrester calls organic IT, an emerging data center architecture that will cut IT costs in half.

IBM delivers five organic IT elements today:

First, Web services, which lead the product array. IBM's WebSphere product line came out on top in Forrester's evaluation of Web services platforms.

Second, server provisioning is a mixed story. The bad news: IBM uses multiple products--often glued together by IBM Global Services--to deliver provisioning, which results in configuration data scattered across multiple repositories. Moreover, IBM's platform provisioning capabilities are limited on non-IBM platforms. The good news? Application provisioning with the company's Tivoli products is quite sophisticated, assuming users are willing to do lots of scripting.

Third, storage means virtualization and partnerships. IBM's Storage Tank initiative to deliver storage virtualization--unified data access to a heterogeneous pool of shared storage--is a work in progress for delivery this year. In the meantime, IBM Global Services works with partners like DataCore Software to deliver this capability to customers.

Fourth, management features spread across many products. IBM expects to slash IT management costs by making its products autonomic--that is, able to configure, optimize, protect and heal themselves. IBM plans to add autonomic computing features to its full range of products, including the DB2 Universal Database, Tivoli management software and IBM servers.

Fifth, IBM Global Services has the power. IBM's services arm is large, well-regarded and growing. The division has performed more than 4,000 Linux engagements, a good foundation for organic IT.

Discounts for waiting
Though IBM has the right vision for organic IT, its customers today can't easily reap the broad savings that come from higher capacity utilization and better management.

• IBM's strong technology sets the stage for future organic IT success. IBM's grid computing, autonomic computing and Web services initiatives have been under way for several years--laying a deep foundation for organic IT product development. Customers can pay IBM Global Services to assemble packages in the short run.

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• Missing elements open a window for price negotiation. Despite the technology head start, IBM leads only in organic IT products for Web services. IBM lacks storage virtualization and a platform provisioning provider, which would help companies gain big efficiencies. Customers buying into IBM's services now, products later approach should get a discount.

• IBM will lead in the long run. Despite an early handicap, IBM will be a dominant player in organic IT. Its huge research and development assets, strong customer base, industry-leading IBM Global Services arm, and complete stack of products will make it an organic IT powerhouse by 2005. Customers willing to delay cost-cutting gratification and wait patiently will be rewarded with a broad, full-service offering.

Taking action
IBM's vision for IT infrastructure that is "responsive, focused, resilient and variably priced" is grand. But to transform that vision into organic IT products that keep customers interested, IBM should immediately do the following:

• Buy Opsware. IBM needs products that deliver large organic IT impact in the next year--and it must spend to get them. Buying Opsware would add platform provisioning to the application provisioning already delivered by IBM's Tivoli unit and by IBM Global Services. IBM should also purchase current partner DataCore to improve its storage networking and virtualization.

• Connect "on demand" to specific products. With server provisioning and storage virtualization in the queue, IBM must shift from IT visionary to technology pragmatist. The first step is to move the marketing engine beyond the admittedly amusing ads and offer practical, product-oriented marketing: Tout immediate benefits like doubling server capacity with no new server purchases or halving staff time for IT maintenance.

• Create and promote more organic IT services. To deter defection by customers who want server provisioning now, IBM must better package and promote IBM Global Services capabilities as part of its "on demand" campaign. For example, the services unit should create and promote a capacity quick-start program based on platform provisioning products from Veritas/Jareva or Opsware that extend a customer's existing equipment--rather than just pitch them on new equipment or outsourcing.

© 2003, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.