IBM products aim to speed up, automate virtualization

In beta, one new software product lets users deploy thousands of virtual machines in under an hour, IBM said

IBM is aiming to make it easier for enterprises to manage their virtualized environments, with new features in the Tivoli Provisioning Manager and other software products.

IBM is rolling out a beta program for new software that it claims can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to provision new virtual machines. The software can deploy a single VM in seconds, dozens in a few minutes and hundreds or thousands in under an hour, according to an IBM press release.

Dennis Quan, director of the IBM Tivoli China Development Laboratory, was vague about how the software achieves those speeds, saying that it uses a number of techniques including streaming the image.

The software can boost efficiency in organizations where IT people might otherwise spend many minutes or even an hour to get a single VM provisioned, he said.

But the benefits can extend further, he said. One reason companies move to the cloud is because it allows organizations to use only the computing resources they need.

"That idea also assumes that when they're done with those resources they are returned to the cloud so they can be used by others," Quan said. However, sometimes groups are reluctant to give up resources even if they aren't using them because of the time it can take to get those resources back later.

"If you get to the point where you tell users they can get their resources back in seconds to minutes, then the users don't worry about not getting it back quickly if they give it up now," Quan said. The software can also help improve agility for businesses that may want to be able to make changes quickly, he said.

IBM also announced Tuesday that Tivoli Provisioning Manager now supports image federation and deployment across heterogenous infrastructure.

"It's the ability to support different hardware hypervisor platforms from a single management system," Quan said. An enterprise can use VMware, PowerVM and Xen hypervisors and manage them from the same console, he said.

IBM is also announcing that it will launch a beta program "imminently" for new software that extends service management capabilities to hybrid clouds. Users will be able to monitor and provision services that may be hosted internally or on public clouds. Financial services and public sector organizations are among those most interested in keeping important data on internal systems while offloading less mission-critical apps to public clouds, Quan said.

Quan did not share the list of public cloud services that would initially be supported but said that it would be able to tie in many services and would refine the list through the course of the beta program.

The company is also announcing new virtualization support in its Tivoli Storage Manager. The product lets users efficiently manage storage requirements, data recovery and data protection across machines, Quan said. "It gives you better control over your environment and enforces a more uniform policy," he said.

The new features and products may be good news for CFOs, but may not exactly be welcome by IT departments. By automating management and speeding up provisioning times, IT departments require fewer administrators, Quan said.

"It's the human labor that contributes significantly to the cost of running that IT environment," he said. "When you're running an environment with thousands of VMs, every minute of human activity required per VM adds up very quickly. So the more you're able to automate that ... the better off you are and the more likely you are to realize ROI from the cloud environment."

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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