IBM Thinks 'Dynamics' to Boost On-demand Play

UPDATE: Big Blue pads its already deep on-demand strategy by adding a firm that makes provisioning software to keep systems up and running.

IBM Wednesday moved to shore up its on-demand e-business strategy Wednesday by buying privately-held software maker Think Dynamics for an undisclosed sum.

Toronto's Think Dynamics makes software that addresses computing demand peaks and system failures by allocating resources at the right time before a system is stalled. Also known as orchestrated or dynamic provisioning, this technology keeps computer systems up and running despite duress.

The purchase, to be rolled into the Tivoli division, is a certain feather in the cap of Armonk, N.Y.'s IBM, which has been lauding its autonomic computing strategy for software that steps up to save systems from potential downtime caused by network glitches. More broadly, the coup is a win in an increasingly crowded utility computing space, where vendors are offering enterprises software and services on a metered, pay-as-you-go basis.

IBM's competitors in this space include Sun Microsystems, HP, Computer Associates and Veritas Software, the latter three of whom have made utility computing announcements this month. Sun is also girding its N1 strategy to join the battle.

Summit Strategies Senior Analyst John Madden said the purchase was a smart one for Big Blue.

"IBM's whole on-demand strategy is based around three dimensions from a technology point of view -- virtualization, automation and integration," Madden said. "This fits well into the automation dimension, and is a very logical deal for IBM. The company is putting a high degree of investment into Tivoli to make on-demand businesses work, and this deal will help accelerate some of the development along those lines."

Think Dynamics, whose relationship with IBM dates back a few years to when Big Blue was working on its eLiza project (which morphed into autnomic computing), also enjoyed partnerships with major vendors such as HP, EMC and Oracle. Its provisioning software culls real-time feedback on computer systems, checks the status against business policies, and reallocates servers, middleware, applications, storage systems and network interfaces to the areas that need them.

This philosophy is one of proactive computing systems that address network needs before a failure can occur. The software from Think Dynamics, which supports Linux, Unix and Windows, is platform-agnostic and works with whatever resources a company has so IT staffs don't have to "rip and replace" their systems.

IBM provided an example of how a bank might use Think Dynamics' software. Traditionally, IT personnel anticipating increased Web traffic would manually shore up servers, middleware and other technology to manage resources according to need. Provisioning software automates this process, letting servers share workloads. New resources would be added as needed and then re-deployed back to their original state after Web traffic decreases.

Robert LeBlanc, general manager, IBM Tivoli software, said in a conference call that IBM and Think Dynamics have been working together some time, and that they decided the marriage makes sense.

"The combination of the IBM team and the Think Dynamics team helps us extend IBM in the world of provisioning. We believe this will help us build out and become the leading solution in the market for on-demand computing," LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc said firms often subscribe to blanket provisioning software and services, which he thinks aren't cost-effective. "We want dynamic provisioning to be about more than 'just in case' or overprovisioning."

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, general manager e-business on demand, said one of the reasons his firm took interest in Think Dynamics is that it is based on key standards, such as Web services, J2EE, and Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA). The fact that Think Dynamics is platform-agnostic is a plus, too.

"By acquiring a leading provider of provisioning software, IBM will bring customers a platform-agnostic solution that further unlocks the value of an on demand infrastructure," Wladawsky-Berger.

Think Dynamics' workers will be transferred to IBM's facility in Canada. IBM is expected to launch new Tivoli software based on the Think Dynamics products. The software will also be used by IBM's Systems Group and its Global Services division.






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