entry was reposted from DoubleCloud.org, a
blog for architects and developers on virtualization and cloud computing.
recently announced its re-organization around its
software and hardware business units. The previously separate business units
were merged together as one – the Systems and Software Group led by the former
software chief Steve Mills.
recall that IBM did not have a dedicated software group until Lou Gerstner
created one 15 years ago to centralize all the software businesses into one
business unit. This unit has been IBM’s most profitable business. Before that,
IBM offered all the software as add-ons to the systems like 390 and AS/400.
Now can we
expect IBM to offer hardware systems as add-ons to their software solutions?
companies constantly re-organize to streamline their business execution, this
reorganization did indicate a big trend is happening in the IT industry.
Computer vendors are striving to own vertically-complete stacks: from hardware
all the way up to business applications.
IBM is not
alone in this trend. Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems for its SPARC servers,
Solaris OS, Java, MySQL database, and even tape storage. Together with its
database and business applications acquired from PeopleSoft, Seibel, and many
other acquisitions, Oracle is now yet another “IBM” that controls vertically
complete stacks. We can expect more IBM-like business model clones emerging in
the coming years.
trend good for customers?
vs. User Experience
means choice and flexibility and often lower initial cost. But it can also mean
sleepless nights to put different IT components together. When there is an
issue with your application/solution, whom do you call? Your hardware vendor,
OS vendor, middleware vendors, application vendors, or systems integrator? It’s
hard to pinpoint anyone on the list. This is a pain for the customers.
Customers like having one throat to choke.
back 30 years ago, we can mostly blame IBM because it sold customers most of
their computer and software systems. IBM owned all the responsibility to fix
any problem. At least until customers had a different pain: you don’t have
choice therefore you have no power in negotiation with Big Blue.
customers began to move onto the client-server model of computing and open
systems with open software. This strategy started to prosper in the 1990s.
Openness has been the winning market strategy ever since.
openness problem solved, the solution that gave customers more negotiating
leverage also shifted the pain back to them. Today we have so many systems,
open or not, that the amount of effort to make them work together is a really
big pain. This hurts user experiences.
In the end,
users just need the applications to support the business. Again, the
application is the end, and everything below is the means. Whatever can do the
job better and more economically wins. This is the fundamental truth behind
this trend for vertically complete systems.
Openness vs. Data Openness
everyone in the game being vertically complete, how can vendors differentiate
again? And for the customers, how should they choose vendors? For customers,
the stakes in choosing the right vendor are even higher than before because
they are standardizing their system with one vendor at a time. Switching costs
are the biggest pain and expense.
customers would love to have the flexibility and choice to switch systems. How
do they do this?
I think the
key is the data. No matter how different systems are, they have to persist data
and be able to restart from the point where they shut down. If two systems from
two different vendors understand the same set of data, customers still switch
easily from one system to the other.
complicated systems, there may be many data persisted, including the output of
data processing, customization settings, user preferences, and more. It takes
time and effort to convert them all over from one system to another. Some of
the data may never be carried over. For example, if one vendor’s algorithm is
not replaced by the other, then the tuning parameters are lost.
Vertically Complete Systems
virtualization, the vertically complete systems can, and should, be re-defined.
For one thing, hardware virtualization provides an abstraction for the hardware
so that your vertically complete systems can be packed as a bunch of files. These
are what I call virtualized vertically complete system.
benefits are profound: you can move your vertically complete systems to wherever
best for whatever reasons such as reliability, performance, saving, and etc. They
are extremely important in cloud age where you cannot move around your physical
servers but for sure your virtualized servers.
openness theme doesn’t change in the cloud environment. The bar may be even
higher because you may want to change the system more frequently in the cloud than
inside an enterprise.
industry is experiencing a shift from openness to a vertically complete
hardware/software appliance approach. Big vendors are re-aligning their
operations for this trend.
customers, it is mixed news. They may get a better user experience but pay the
price in vendor lock-in. To best protect IT investments, customers should
demand data openness to protect their ability to switch systems down the road.
Data openness is the only solution to this problem.
cloud age, the virtualized vertically complete system inherits the benefits of
vertically complete systems with additional flexibilities and portabilities
that are crucial for cloud computing. It’s IT’s the next big trend.
Jin is author of VMware VI & vSphere SDK (Prentice
Hall), founder of open source VI Java API,
and is the chief blogger at DoubleCloud.org