IBM purchases IT usage tracking specialist

With the acquisition of CIMS Lab, Inc., Big Blue tries to cobble a pothole on one of the newest roads in the IT landscape: Virtualized IT usage billing.

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Big Blue is expanding its virtual portfolio.

IBM last week acquired a Roseville, Calif-based company that provides software to help businesses track and bill the usage of various computing resources across virtualized environments.

CIMS Lab, Inc.'s software gathers raw data pertaining to servers, storage, email, networks, databases, applications and operating systems, and converts it to specific financial information that can be more relevant to managers who wish to better understand which department is using what -- and how much it's costing the company.

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The software is most useful for large enterprises using network virtualization. It's designed to help track billing for internal IT resources as IT usage is becoming an increasingly complex issue.

Virtualized networks enable administrators to run various operating systems, applications and storage pools on fewer devices, carrying potential to minimize cost and clutter. With the recent push for IT efficiency and consolidation, the technology has seen remarkable adoption rates and customer satisfaction.

But IT costs have become more difficult to track when sharing resources. For example, a bank made up of various small businesses that use the same software applications and storage devices -- how much should you charge to each the commercial loans, retail banking, and mortgage branch? From a management vantage point, finding that answer can be as much a hobgoblin as maintaining the systems you're trying to streamline.

But flip your calendars ahead if you're wondering about the software's immediate market impact. Analysts say the reach today of 'bill-back' software is generally limited to the current strength of the potential customer -- from its established processes to the capability of its management and IT staff.

"For the big IBM accounts -- mature customers that really have their management and monitoring already in place -- this is an interesting story," said IDC research manager Stephen Elliot. "But for the vast majority of the market, they're not quite there yet."

Although they sure are coming. Market researcher IDC said companies will spend $15 billion worldwide by 2009 on virtualization, with more than three-quarters of all companies with 500+ employees deploying virtual servers. Companies surveyed also expect that 45% of new servers purchased in 2007 will be virtualized.

In an obvious response to such numbers, IBM plans to soon ship CIMS Lab alongside IBM Dire ctor as an accounting and charge-back option with its p-, x-, and iSeries servers, though representatives assured the bundle would not be proprietary.

"In no way are we going to keep this an IBM centric-solution," said Kurt Johnson, director of marketing management for IBM's Tivoli division, which CIMS will be tucked into. "It's a great way to make a good deal bad."

Financials were not disclosed in the takeover of CIMS, which has been an IBM business partner since 2003. The company, made up of 21 employees and based just outside Sacramento, serves 170 customers worldwide in industries such as financial services, government, healthcare and manufacturing.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Joe Spurr, News Writer

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