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IBM leans on Red Hat to adapt Power servers for hybrid cloud

New Red Hat tools and integrated system offerings allow IBM Power users to run workloads across multiple cloud environments.

New tools from IBM and Red Hat allow IT pros to create cloud-native applications that work across hybrid cloud environments, as well as modernize and integrate Power servers with other legacy hardware platforms.

One of the offerings is the IBM Power Private Cloud Rack Solution, a preconfigured system with compute, storage and networking capabilities that includes tailored versions of Red Hat's OpenShift that can match up with a company's existing infrastructure. The system can significantly speed the customization and deployment of cloud environments in a few hours in some cases.

The company also unveiled a half dozen new Ansible modules, including versions for patch management security management, continuous delivery and operating system and applications deployment.

"With this [offering] we are looking to get users up and running in a production environment on OpenShift much faster than if they went out and pulled the pieces together themselves," said Steve Sibley, IBM vice president of Power Systems offering management. "Most users tell us they plan to run in a hybrid mode leveraging an on-premises private cloud for more efficiency and data security issues."

The news follows the release of Red Hat OpenShift on Power Systems Virtual Server, an offering that lets users spin up new OpenShift clusters as devtest environments, as well as create clusters to handle data-intensive workloads. That system, released in December, allows users to run containerized applications such as IBM Cloud Paks and Red Hat Runtimes.

"Our focus has been on applications and infrastructure modernization [of Power systems and iSeries]," Sibley said. "But with the Red Hat Runtimes and code-ready workspaces, Power can run both on premises and off and give users a consistent experience for development for OpenShift on Power [iSeries] Intel platforms."

Red Hat Runtimes is a collection of tools to develop and maintain cloud-native applications. The Power-enhanced Runtimes gives access to open source frameworks that offer a more consistent development experience for hybrid applications across platforms.

IBM's Power adapts to hybrid cloud era

Some analysts believe IBM is moving in the right direction by giving users more flexibility to run workloads across multiple hardware and software platforms -- something corporate IT professionals said is mandatory in an increasingly multi-platform world.

"Integrating OpenShift across the Power ecosystem stack is a clear strategic direction for IBM given what they believe this type of infrastructure allows you to do," said Chirag Dekate, vice president of AI infrastructure, HPC and emerging compute technologies at Gartner. "It allows users to pick and choose your applications, where to place them and how to take advantage of your on-premises assets while you build a cloud-friendly ecosystem."

Most users want to use different solutions for different applications, so if you have IBM equipment on premises, how do you use it with Amazon or Microsoft cloud? [IBM is] trying to make it as flexible as possible.
Jim McGregorPrincipal analyst, Tirias Research

The new offerings should boost the appeal of the Power series for those users looking to deploy cloud-native applications, according to Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

"They make IBM Power more competitive in the hybrid and public cloud space." Moorhead said. "They've upped Power's game in the hybrid IaaS, public IaaS and XaaS for cloud-native applications, as well as AIX and IBM i customers."

The new offerings are designed to take advantage of the Power10 processor, IBM's next generation chip due to arrive in this year's fourth quarter. The upcoming chip is designed from the ground up to perform well in hybrid clouds, according to Sibley. The company will deliver AIX 7.3 around the time the Power10 arrives, optimized to take advantage of the upcoming chip. The Power10 will be IBM's first 7 nanometer processor.

The Power10 could provide a potential competitive advantage for IBM in the increasingly competitive multi-cloud market later this year and into 2022.

"The Power10 is a major shift in architecture for IBM," said Jim McGregor, founder and principal analyst at Tirias Research. "The Power9 and Power8 was focused on supporting GPUs for acceleration, but with the Power10 they are moving over to support PCIe, meaning they will support any type of accelerator. This gives them more flexibility in supporting things like Red Hat's software in multi-clouds."

It is somewhat unusual for IBM or competitors to offer products across such a wide range of platforms, McGregor noted.

"They are trying to offer as many solutions to users as possible regarding security, pricing and especially software," McGregor said. "Most users want to use different solutions for different applications, so if you have IBM equipment on premises, how do you use it with Amazon or Microsoft cloud? They are trying to make it as flexible as possible."

Lastly, IBM has enhanced its Power Systems Private Cloud Solution with Dynamic Capacity plan, which allows users to unlock more compute cores as needed to get consumption-based pricing, by extending that ability to hybrid clouds by using capacity credits. These credits can be purchased and used to unlock capacity to selected on-premises Power9-based servers and IBM Power Virtual Servers.

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