IBM Monday unveiled a new grid computing software feature for WebSphere application server. This new feature automatically monitors application workloads and routes traffic from one server to another to better balance workloads.
In what the Armonk, N.Y. company is describing as a "traffic cop-like" product, the feature enables a cluster consisting of many servers -- from dozens to hundreds -- to operate as a single environment that adapts to changes on the fly, similar to grid systems. This is akin to grid computing, where disparate computers and systems can function as one integrated computing system.
Big Blue said this feature can improve network performance by avoiding missed server connections. The software is a key piece of what analysts expect to see much of from IBM in the wake of its companywide e-business in-demand strategy. Rivals like Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Veritas, and Computer Associates have already embarked on similar strategies.
IBM added the feature to WebSphere because it said current server clusters in data centers often do not handle unexpected workload changes. Because the IT managers must avoid network bottlenecks and keep users connected, they usually plan for great spikes in demand but realize the potential of their servers aren't reached.
This goes to the heart of a major concern of enterprises needing IT infrastructure today -- they want to bolster return-on-investment with whatever equipment they do own or plan to buy.
Dan Powers, vice president of grid computing strategy at IBM, said customers had asked for the ability to balance WebSphere workloads in a dynamic fashion, so that's what IBM provided.
Powers said one example where the "traffic cop tool" might be useful is for a financial company that offers online trading. The company might have risk management software running in parallel fashion. With its business policy, it could then take on more workloads when not busy with online trading.
Summit Strategies analyst Mary Johnston Turner discussed the import of the new software tool from IBM.
"The availability of grid computing on the WebSphere platform is the first tangible product to deliver on IBM's On Demand Operating Environment (ODOE) strategy," Turner told internetnews.com. "ODOE is a multiyear effort to tie all IBM products together in a highly dynamic autonomic operating environment where many decisions about provisioning, workload balancing and resource prioritization across multiple servers and systems can be executed automatically, on the fly, in response to changing business requirements. The WebSphere announcement is a down payment on this ambitious ODOE promise."
Turner said IBM has been one of the firms leading the charge on moving grid into mainstream commercial applications and IT management solutions.
"But the next 6 to 12 months will tell us whether anyone outside the high performance technical computing market is following," she said. "When we see major commercial ISVs and third-party hardware companies announcing their support for grid we'll have proof that IBM is on the right track in betting on grid's ability to serve the broader commercial market."
More broadly, Powers said features like the grid computing tool come from IBM's mainframe experience, where software features of mainframe operating systems help the machines operate as much as 70 percent of their total capacity. He also said customers can expect to see more features added to improve WebSphere's functionality down the road, including more parallel processes.
Future versions of IBM WebSphere will extend the "traffic cop" capability to disparate parts of a company and coordinate clusters of servers running heterogeneous business applications, rather than just single clusters running a particular application such as online trading.
WebSphere Application Server v5.0.2 enterprise edition will be available July 25 for $30,000 per processor. It includes one free year of maintenance and services.
Separately, IBM Monday said it has made some improvements to its iSeries line of eServers, including a 5/8-way option with On/Off Capacity on Demand to the iSeries 870. The new option is geared for customers adding transaction workloads or upgrading from AS/400 740 or i830 servers.
In conjunction with that, Big Blue also added two new iSeries servers built for on- demand environments: the iSeries for Capacity BackUp and the iSeries for High Availability. The former is designed for companies requiring an off-site, stand-by server for disaster recovery. The latter is targeted at companies that require always-on high availability clustering.
This article was originally published on internetnews.com.