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ISV Solutions Ensure a Wide Selection of Power Systems Software

“We pursue key ISVs that our clients ask for or who, from an overall assessment of emerging industry dynamics, are a great match for the platform.”
-Terri Virnig, vice president, Power Ecosystem and Strategy

When it comes to IT for your business, the applications count. In the same way a drill is really only useful if it has a selection of bits, so a computing platform is only as good as the quality and variety of the applications that run on it. Fortunately for Power Systems* end users, the platform is supported by a rich and vibrant ecosystem of ISVs, developers and researchers.

That’s not just a matter of serendipity. IBM has well-established programs in place to foster relationships with developers, managed services providers (MSPs) and academics, arming them with tools, technical assistance and even free access to Power Systems servers to simplify migrations or enable them to try out new ideas. The purpose is to increase the number of applications for the platform as well as expand its capabilities. The overarching goal is to help end users derive maximum business value from their technology investment.

Building Community

The Power* ecosystem team monitors clients, partners and potential partners, homing in on the providers and solutions most critical to clients now or in the future. “We actively recruit,” says Terri Virnig, vice president, Power Ecosystem and Strategy. “We pursue key ISVs that our clients ask for or who, from an overall assessment of emerging industry dynamics, are a great match for the platform.” The latter category encompasses three key areas of interest for today’s business users: big data and analytics, cloud deployment options, and mobile and Java* technology-focused applications. “The platform has great differentiation in terms of what it can do for those ISVs,” she adds.

Big data is one of the top IT opportunities—and challenges—that businesses face today, and the x86 platform is unequal to the task. Power Systems servers have traditionally offered greater processing power, faster operation and higher utilization than x86 boxes. The latest POWER* processor takes that philosophy to the next level. Designed from the outset to tackle demanding applications like big data, the POWER8* chip boasts massively parallel processing capabilities and uber-fast speeds. The processor is available with up to 12 cores, each capable of running as many as eight threads for a total of 96 threads per chip. It features a new Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (CAPI) that permits faster operation than ever, allowing it to communicate with add-on cards like graphics processors and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) with minimal latency.

Hardware is only part of story, however. Ecosystem is just another word for community and that concept is embodied nowhere better than in the open-source movement. The Power Systems platform has long offered users a choice between the AIX* and IBM i operating systems. In response to skyrocketing demand for Linux* applications and systems, IBM launched Linux on Power, following up in 2001 with a $1 billion investment in the Linux community. Today, some 800 ISVs have joined the Power ecosystem, for a combined offering of more than 1,500 Linux applications.

It’s a number that’s only expected to grow, in part because of business trends and in part because of the additional $1 billion IBM pledged last fall to invest in Linux over the next five years. “The last time IBM committed $1 billion to Linux, it helped start a flurry of innovation that has never slowed,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, in a news release about the announcement. “We look forward to seeing how the Power platform can bring about further innovation on Linux, and how companies and developers can work together to get the most out of this open architecture.”

IBM is committed to advancing Linux on Power, but it will also continue to support its traditional operating systems, Virnig emphasizes. “We have a really strong set of partners in the IBM i and AIX spaces, and there should be no question that we continue to view those platforms as strategic,” she says. “Linux is something that we’re driving to aggressively because it’s so important to the industry, and therefore, to us. The way I view it is that you can extend your AIX and IBM i capabilities with Linux solutions, and our job is to make sure that clients can do that in the optimal way.”

The platform’s capability to run mixed workloads gives end users the flexibility to choose the exact elements that will best serve their needs. Within the ecosystem, clients can assemble a solution from multiple sources, including ISV products, open-source offerings and applications from IBM Software Group. They can choose from scale out or scale up solutions. In the latter case, they simply partition their Power Systems boxes as required (e.g., including a virtual server running Linux alongside virtual servers running AIX and IBM i). The result is a best-in-class hybrid solution.

Kristin Lewotsky is a freelance technology writer based in Amherst, N.H.

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