IBM may have poured considerable effort into developing a hardy cloud platform, but Big Blue can’t quite let go of the hardware segment, which has earned it significant profits over the years: its new PowerLinux 7R4 server is designed to boost the efforts of those clients engaged in data analytics and heavy-duty cloud work.
The PowerLinux 7R4 server is built atop the same Power Systems platform that powers IBM’s Watson supercomputing initiative. Supported software includes IBM Cognos Business Intelligence (an analytics engine newly optimized for Linux on IBM hardware) and EnterpriseDB database software (an enterprise-level Postgre-SQL-based toolset). On the hardware front, the server is capable of leveraging up to 4 sockets and 32 cores.
IBM’s promotion of server hardware designed for data analytics is also a clear shot across Oracle’s bow. Oracle, of course, is another company with a portfolio of legacy enterprise hardware. Like IBM, Oracle also has its eye on the cloud and data-analytics markets.
Oracle is also going through some very public turmoil over its legacy assets. Its fourth-quarter revenues from new software licenses and cloud-software subscriptions were up 1 percent, but its hardware sales have suffered. In the face of those anemic numbers, Oracle has become more aggressive about moving online, announcing strategic alliances with longtime rivals Microsoft and Salesforce on cloud initiatives.
IBM hasn’t offered much hard insight into how its own cloud initiatives are doing—except to tell investors and analysts that its cloud revenue growth is trending upward—but it faces the same sort of ultra-competitive environment as Oracle. In order to better compete in the cloud and analytics spaces, IBM has acquired a number of smaller firms and pushed out updates to many of its business-centric software platforms.
Despite that forward progress, however, there are troubling signs that other players are adapting just as well to the game: Amazon recently won a private-cloud contract from the CIA, for example, until IBM convinced the Government Accountability Office to reopen the contract-approval process. Dell, Microsoft, and other vendors have been making similar inroads in data analytics and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) initiatives. In other words, IBM might be a giant, but it faces several fellow giants (and giant-killers).