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IBM sells utility computing bundle

As it vies with HP and Sun in the fledgling utility computing field, Big Blue unveils a hardware-software bundle that's designed to make it easier to use a new utility computing product.

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Stephen Shankland
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IBM will begin selling a collection of hardware and software Wednesday that's designed to make it easier to use a new utility computing product.

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The Web Infrastructure Orchestration bundle will let IBM's Tivoli management software govern how the company's DB2 database software and WebSphere e-commerce and Web site software run on Big Blue's BladeCenter servers, IBM said.

Big Blue is vying, along with Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and others, to get ahead with the new idea of utility computing--pooling equipment together so that computing resources can be tapped as needed and paid according to how much they are used. Much of the utility computing movement is aimed at letting an organization use its own equipment more efficiently, but in the longer term, the idea could lead to more outsourcing. Thus far, utility computing remains more of a marketing plan than a widely used technology.

Bundling utility computing software and hardware is one way to reduce the complexity and get customers to try out the concept Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said. "Bundling makes sense," he said. "The reality is: With these really early deployments, it makes sense to get this complete new thing that you put over in a corner and play with. There's a lot of new stuff here."

HP and Sun have taken the same strategy with their utility computing products. Sun's N1 software debuted as a package available only with its blade servers, while HP's Utility Data Center was also inextricably linked to HP servers.

IBM's Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator software has a starting price of $20,000 and costs more if it's used to control more servers. The bundle, which includes IBM software and hardware, can cost as much as $300,000, the company said.

Although the software can control several products, subsets can be purchased as a bundle--for example, just the BladeCenter and the Orchestrator software.

IBM's bundle is the second product to come from the company's Project Symphony, which is based on a Tivoli management software product IBM acquired when it bought Think Dynamics in May. The first was a standalone version of the Think Dynamics software it released in September, which customers could integrate with hardware and software on their own.

Future phases of Project Symphony will expand to include IBM services and outsourcing, IBM has said.

The acquisition of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, which brought in-depth experience with customers' business methods, means that IBM has expertise useful for utility computing, Haff said. And IBM's got a broader suite of software products than HP or Sun has, he said.

"IBM's got more pieces in its kit bag. The biggest advantage IBM has in-house compared to the others is their level of business consulting," Haff said.