Daily Archives: October 3, 2011

IBM Rumored to be in Acquisition Talks with Platform Computing

Yes, I’m writing another post with a connection to the Open Virtualization Alliance (OVA), though I assure you I have not embarked on an obsessive serialization. That might occur at a later date, most likely involving a different topic, but it’s not on the cards now.

As for this post, the connection to OVA is glancing and tangential, relating to a company that recently joined the association (then again, who hasn’t of late?), but really made its bones — and its money — with workload-management solutions for high-performance computing. Lately, the company in question has gone with the flow and recast itself as a purveyor of private cloud computing solutions. (Again, who hasn’t?)

Talks Relatively Advanced

Yes, we’re talking about Platform Computing, rumored by some dark denizens of the investment-banking community to be a takeover target of none other than IBM. Apparently, according to sources familiar with the situation (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase), the talks are relatively advanced. That said, a deal is not a deal until pen is put to paper.

IBM and Platform first crossed paths, and began working together, many years ago in the HPC community, so their relationship is not a new one. The two companies know each other well.

Rich Heritage in Batch, Workload Management

Platform Computing broadly focuses on two sets of solutions. Its legacy workload-management business is represented by Load Sharing Facility (LSF), which is now part of its cluster-management product portfolio, which — like LSF in its good old days — is targeted squarely at the HPC world. With its rich heritage in batch applications, LSF also is part of Platform’s workload-management software for grid infrastructure.

Like so many others, Platform has refashioned itself as a cloud-computing provider. The company, and some of its customers, found that its core technologies could be adapted and repurposed for the ever-ambiguous private cloud.

Big Data, Too

Perhaps sensitive about being hit by charges of “cloud washing,” Platform contends that it offers “private cloud computing for the real world” through cloud bursting for HPC and private-cloud solutions for enterprise data centers. Not surprisingly given its history, Platform is most convincing and compelling when addressing the requirements of the HPC crowd.

That said, the company has jumped onto the Big Data bandwagon with gusto. It offers Platform MapReduce for vertical markets such as financial services (long a Platform vertical), telecommunications, government (fraud detection and cyber security, regulatory compliance, energy), life sciences, and retail.

Platform recently announced that its ISF, not be confused with LSF, was recognized as a finalist in the “Private Cloud Computing” category for the 2011 Best of VMworld awards. And, of course, to bring this post full circle, Platform was one of 134 new members to join the aforementioned Open Virtualization Association (OVA).

Advertisements

OVA Members Hope to Close Ground

I discussed the fast-growing Open Virtualization Alliance (OVA) in a recent post about its primary objective, which is to commoditize VMware’s daunting market advantage. In catching up on my reading, I came across an excellent piece by InformationWeek’s Charles Babcock that puts the emergence of OVA into historical perspective.

As Babcock writes, the KVM-centric OVA might not have come into existence at all if an earlier alliance supporting another open-source hypervisor hadn’t foundered first. Quoting Babcock regarding OVA’s vanguard members:

Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, AMD, Red Hat, SUSE, BMC, and CA Technologies are examples of the muscle supporting the alliance. As a matter of fact, the first five used to be big backers of the open source Xen hypervisor and Xen development project. Throw in the fact Novell was an early backer of Xen as the owner of SUSE, and you have six of the same suspects. What happened to support for Xen? For one, the company behind the project, XenSource, got acquired by Citrix. That took Xen out of the strictly open source camp and moved it several steps closer to the Microsoft camp, since Citrix and Microsoft have been close partners for over 20 years.

Xen is still open source code, but its backers found reasons (faster than you can say vMotion) to move on. The Open Virtualization Alliance still shares one thing in common with the Xen open source project. Both groups wish to slow VMware’s rapid advance.

Wary Eyes

Indeed, that is the goal. Most of the industry, with the notable exception of VMware’s parent EMC, is casting a wary eye at the virtualization juggernaut, wondering how far and wide its ambitions will extend and how they will impact the market.

As Babcock points out, however, by moving in mid race from one hypervisor horse (Xen) to another (KVM), the big backers of open-source virtualization might have surrendered insurmountable ground to VMware, and perhaps even to Microsoft. Much will depend on whether VMware abuses its market dominance, and whether Microsoft is successful with its mid-market virtualization push into its still-considerable Windows installed base.

Long Way to Go

Last but perhaps not least, KVM and the Open Virtualization Alliance (OVA) will have a say in the outcome. If OVA members wish to succeed, they’ll not only have to work exceptionally hard, but they’ll also have to work closely together.

Coming from behind is never easy, and, as Babcock contends, just trying to ride Linux’s coattails will not be enough. KVM will have to continue to define its own value proposition, and it will need all the marketing and technological support its marquee backers can deliver. One area of particular importance is operations management in the data center.

KVM’s market share, as reported by Gartner earlier this year, was less than one percent in server virtualization. It has a long way to go before it causes VMware’s executives any sleepless nights. That it wasn’t the first choice of its proponents, and that it has lost so much time and ground, doesn’t help the cause.