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A few major IT vendors made big changes this year including new architectures, strategies and services to remain profitable in quickly evolving markets.
Here's a recap of IBM, Dell and Red Hat's big moves in 2014 -- so far.
1. IBM X6 systems with Intel target cloud, big data
Designed to boost performance and reliability, IBM's X6 architecture had a lot to live up to when it was released in January. IBM intended to boost its Intel-based servers in the cloud computing and big data markets with its newest X version. The X6 architecture is substantially different than the X5, but further develops Intel's model of disaggregating processors from memory in large rack servers.
With declining sales from its hardware business, IBM must make a smooth transition to software and services. Although X6 was intended to make System X more attractive to potential buyers with its Power compatibility, it remains to be seen whether it leads to a significant increase in numbers.
2. Dell software to the rescue?
With less than ideal hardware sales, Dell must step up its software game to remain a major IT vendor.
In February, Dell went private and has since worked to become a software and services supplier. But its failure to convey a vision for its software, combined with in-house politics, has weighed the company down.
However, Dell has forged a number of cloud partnerships this year, including Red Hat, opened a cloud brokerage service and recently re-committed to delivering PCs as a way to boost its software and services business.
3. Forget RISC, x86 is the way to go
With hopes of x86 becoming the big data architecture of the enterprise, Intel's Xeon E7 v2 processor brings increased memory capacity to x86 servers, competing with IBM Power-based servers thanks to in-memory analytics.
With the new processor's big data architecture, performance is double that of previous generation processors. The chip also promises faster enterprise big data analytics with a scale-up approach.
4. RHEL 7 arrives to subdued excitement
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 7 had many new features, from deeper integration with Windows Active Directory and kernel advances, to Project Atomic. The RHEL 7 roadmap, released in April, includes advancements in Linux containers with Docker integration. Other improvements simplify upgrades from previous versions of RHEL, to demonstrate Red Hat's intent to keep the newest OS version simple for enterprise deployments.
In June, 2013, after the initial RHEL 7 roadmap was revealed at the Red Hat Summit, the director of software engineering at Red Hat, Denise Dumas, called the changes a "no-brainer." So far, the transition has been smooth for end users.
5. Big Blue's cloud offers survival route
IBM is down, but not out.
Going forward, the company must look to software and cloud services to succeed as market forces erode its server hardware business.
IBM hopes the cloud services business brings reprieve, but if it doesn't, slower release cycles could leave IBM customers in a lurch. While IBM bets on its SoftLayer cloud to satisfy users, the reality is the cloud market is highly competitive and will remain a tough hill to climb.