IBM points toward managing multicloud universe

But its Tivoli tool is still missing capabilities for accomplishing that goal

LAS VEGAS -- IBM's Tivoli cloud management tool upgrade includes the ability to deploy virtual machines in seconds and manage public cloud environments with the same data center management tool. But there's potential for frustration as well: IBM's list of supported platforms, at least in this first iteration of the beta release, includes some notable absences.

"There are still some things that need to be done," said Melvin Greer, a senior fellow and chief strategist for cloud computing at Lockheed Martin Information Systems, an IBM user. Greer attended IBM's Pulse conference here to discuss the new tools with IBM officials.

IBM said Tivoli Provisioning Manager (TPM), which now has the ability to rapidly deploy VMs, will support the following virtual environments: AIX LPARS (logical partitions) WPARS (workload partitions), KVM, Solaris Zones and VMware. Among the missing: Microsoft's Hyper-V.

IBM also said TPM will extend its service management capabilities to clouds outside the data center. But the only one mentioned was IBM's own cloud, not cloud services offered by Google or Amazon.com or other public cloud providers, although IBM officials indicated that the company plans to support several providers' offerings. It does have monitoring tools for some of those environments.

Lockheed Martin is a major federal government contractor, and its customers are heading in all types of cloud directions. Greer said his cloud customers have a need for broader support.

"When we talk about a hybrid cloud environment, we're not just talking about enterprise to an IBM cloud, we're talking across cloud implementations," said Greer. Lockheed Martin is working on tools to help it harmonize these clouds and make their management more interoperable and secure.

"We are building cloud computing capabilities that do that because our customers use all different clouds," he said.

Greer added that IBM is moving in the direction of broader support. "One of the challenges that all cloud providers have is to move from this siloed cloud perspective to one that is interoperable and that provides for better data portability," Greer said. The product announcements that IBM made this week "are starting down that path."

Greer also pointed to some of IBM's recent acquisitions as evidence of the company's push.

Those acquisitions include purchases last year of three companies that specialize in integration and management: Cast Iron Software, a cloud integration company; Lombardi Software, a provider of business process management software and services; and Sterling Commerce, which integrates customer, partner and supplier networks across industries.

IBM last year said it planned to spend $20 billion buying companies through 2015. That's more than IBM has spent on acquisitions over the past 10 years.

IBM officials at the conference also didn't rule out support for Microsoft's virtualization's tools, as well public cloud environments, and indicated a list may be on the way.

For those users that have the environments that can utilize Tivoli, Dennis Quan, the director of IBM Tivoli China Development Laboratory, outlined some of the benefits of the new version of the TPM, which allows automation of provisioning and patch management, among other functions.

A highlighted improvement is its capability to rapidly deploy virtual machines, which will enable IT managers to get higher levels of utilization, Quan said.

Some of that may be due to psychology. If users know they can rapidly get new resources, they may be more willing to give up unused resources so they can be put to use elsewhere. Rapid deployment speed "has the ability to change the mind-set of a lot of users, to get them to the point where they will be willing to relinquish those resources when they are done using them," Quan said.

TPM has been designed with the ability to tolerate failures, and in an environment with thousands of VMs, it will reduce the manual work for system administrators, lowering management cost, Quan said.

"The majority of the cost of running a data center, virtualized or otherwise, is the manual work involved in keeping the system going," he said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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