We had the opportunity to attend the IBM Enterprise conference in Las Vegas, the event designed for users of IBM’s STG (Server and Technology Group) products. Attendance rose by 30+% to over 3600 professionals, drawn to the event by a large number of training and certification sessions. It was good to see a more global audience than what I have seen at other IBM events for other parts of its large software portfolio.


Here are my Top 3 takeaways by the three STG areas - Power, mainframe and storage:

1. IBM keeps creating value for the mainframe - The often pronounced dead mainframe is doing well and contrary to many reports, is not going away anytime soon. Too many critical workloads run on mainframes today, one often used example at the conference is that it is pretty much impossible to withdraw money from an ATM anywhere in the world without interacting with a mainframe. IBM claims that about 55% of worldwide enterprise transaction need a mainframe to fulfill them.

Slide from Rosamilia keynote

Back at the STG analyst meeting us blogged about interesting and surprising use cases (mobile for instance) – so let’s look what IBM announced at Enterprise: The addition of BigData and analytical capabilities for the mainframe. This enables use cases like social media analysis and fraud, we will need to check in with IBM in a few months for use cases. Equally interesting is the announcement of IBM Cloud Manager with OpenStack for System z- allowing to run the mainframe like any other OpenStack resource, from one pane of glass.

Slide from Balog keynote

2. New Power Systems - IBM is not standing still with Power and fresh off the sales of its x86 server business to Lenovo even labels the Enterprise press release of Power as a replacement for x86 servers - well that was quick. IBM stressed the expansion of the OpenPower Foundation that during the conference reached 60+ members (the press release still had 59) – which underlines a dynamic community. I expect Open Power getting even more traction as Power is now the only platform for many other vendors to partner with IBM. And no surprise IBM is stressing the Power architecture’s ability to handle BigData well. IBM said that Power now offers up to 20% better price performance than Intel Xeon based systems, based on September 2014 SPEC Benchmark.

And for a moment we are reminded we are at hardware conference -
Rosamilia and Balog unveil a new Power Servder

3. Storage becomes software defined – As previewed earlier at the STG analyst summit, IBM offers a number of new software defined storage options. The vendor did not get tired to stress that IBM was recently proclaimed the leader in flash storage by our colleagues at IDC. The interesting observation for me was, that IBM is practically forced into software defined storage. As IBM has System Z and Power as remaining architecture and as well wants to support a variety of existing customer system architectures, while not building storage systems for each platform - it pretty much needs to find a software defined solution to get storage done on its new storage machines. It was interesting to see such a system, offering 1 petabyte in flash storage. And let’s not forget the SoftLayer option, where IBM announced backup to the cloud. For customers operating on these platforms, these are good forces to align with.

Benefits of Software Defined Storage - from Thomas' keynote


A good event for IBM customers using System Z and Power Servers. Mainframe customer were able to clearly see that IBM is not leaving them behind, but keeps offering new options to bring new load to the mainframe. Power customers can be assured that IBM invests into Power, one of the main interests (relatively absent at the event, but there was a parallel event in New York) of IBM is Watson, and that alone will give Power a significant market share. Getting more software to run on Power will be crucial for IBM, new announcements like e.g. the one of Suse help, but more still needs to be done in my view. 

On the storage side my key realization at the event was, that IBM needs to make software defined storage a success. Offering the new flash based systems for System Z, Power etc. on the respective platforms will not scale so IBM needs (and wants) to provide a single (Flash based ideally) storage server and direct the storage needs from different platform to it. Given IBM customers have a similar and likely even more heterogeneous system landscape – a good goal alignment.

Overall IBM is focused on creating value for its platforms – if this will be enough to create brand new usage and sales for System Z and Power based server’s remains to be seen. Watson is a great potential growth driver for Power, but mainly created by IBM’s own decision. The big news would be net new System Z customers not only here and there but consistently buying the mainframe for a 21st century use case. We will see if 2015 will have that in store – or not. 

More on IBM :
  • Progress Report - The Mainframe is alive and kicking - but there is more in IBM STG - read here
  • News Analysis - IBM and Intel partner to make the cloud more secure - read here
  • Progress Report - IBM BigData an Analytics have a lot of potential - time to show it - read here
  • Event Report - What a difference a year makes - and off to a good start - read here
  • First Take - 3 Key Takeaways from IBM's Impact Conference - Day 1 Keynote - read here
  • Another week and another Billion - this week it's a BlueMix Paas - read here
  • First take - IBM makes Connection - introduces the TalentSuite at IBM Connect - read here
  • IBM kicks of cloud data center race in 2014 - read here
  • First Take - IBM Software Group's Analyst Insights - read here
  • Are we witnessing one of the largest cloud moves - so far? Read here
  • Why IBM acquired Softlayer - read here
Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.