I participated in an interesting new IBM Powercast this morning, which was a new sort of hybrid conversation, press conference, webcast, and video chat session all in one. Essentially, IBM invited me -- along with another half-dozen or so biz tech journalists -- to a Spreecast event to hear about how small and medium sized businesses are fostering innovation with cloud and analytics through a foundation of using IBM Power Systems.
The great thing about the IBM Powercast is that it was informal. Led and moderated by Doug Brown, IBM's vice president of marketing for the IBM Systems and Technology Group, it included two SMB-sized customers and an industry analyst:
Brown kicked off the spreecast by pointing out that while IBM's "big business" initiatives and customers get most of the attention, the bulk of IBM's revenue actually comes from SMBs. And, ironically, the SMB tech market represents a $600 billion or so opportunity.
For the most part, there's also a gap between the average SMB's ability to use advanced technology to run its business while larger companies have the resources to invest in new solutions and techniques.
However, as smaller organizations can begin using cloud-based solutions, along with the chance to tap into analytics previously available only to big business . . . plus IBM Power Systems . . . small companies can close the technology gaps and run their businesses better than ever before.
Enter Justin Porter, who is basically a one-man IT shop for Westside Produce who runs everything from the help desk to RPG programming. Westside Produce is a company in California that contracts with melon growers to harvest, market, and ship fresh melons throughout North America. The company turned to IBM’s Power Systems to make it easier to forecast how many boxes of melons will come from multiple fields, sorted by size, variety, and grade. As for the size of the company, Westside grows and shrinks rapidly depending on the season, running with as few as a dozen people on the payroll to upwards of 800.
Porter also runs commodity x86-based servers, but he doesn't seem to enjoy it. In fact, in the IBM Powercast he pointed out that his IBM Power System server lets him focus on running the business and enhancing operations while the x86 servers are more like a "screaming baby."
As for Nigel Fortlage of GHY International, a 110-employee sized provider of Canadian and U.S. customs brokerage services and international trade solutions, the basic story is similar: IBM Power Systems help reduce IT management, which in turn lets Fortlage and GHY focus on the business.
The interesting thing about GHY is that the company made a conscious choice to remove as many "islands" of technology that it could by consolidating various solutions on IBM Power Systems, which has resulted in a hybrid environment that, ironically, is less complicated because of the Power foundation. GHY runs AIX, IBM i, and lot of PowerLinux. The company reduced its IT budget by 14 percent and, more importantly, reduced time spent on server management by 90 percent.
Along the way, over multiple time periods of analysis, GHY -- even as an SMB -- found that x86-based solutions would have simply been more expensive to own and operate. The funniest comment came when Fortlage said something to the effect that the x86 boxes needed a lot of kicking: "We don't ever have to kick our Power System," he said.
In addition, he made another key point: Because GHY is using Linux on Power, GHY already has the tools it needs to spin up instances of Linux, and Fortlage doesn't have to ask for additional budget. "I don't need to ask anybody, I just leverage it," he noted, adding that GHY can simply use what they have already invested in -- IBM Power Systems -- and use it in the way it was intended.