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IBM's Doug Balog: Infrastructure Matters More Than Ever

Doug BalogIT infrastructure has long been an enterprise commodity – relatively cheap and abundant. But hardware is no less important in solving today's IT challenges, from big data and the cloud, to mobile, social and security, says Doug Balog, the general manager for IBM Power Systems.

“Big Data work (for example) requires lots of processors, cores and threads to spread out the queries for parallel analysis,” Balog says in the Q&A interview below. “These workloads also need large cache and memory spaces to provide the best context for the business insights. And whether it be in the cloud or on premise, network bandwidth with lower latency is critical to these new demands.”

Balog, who was previously general manager for IBM System z, will give a keynote presentation on how to revolutionize the way IT is created and consumed at LinuxCon and CloudOpen North America next week in Chicago. Here he discusses the challenges facing the enterprise today, the role of infrastructure and open source development in addressing them, and the ideas behind IBM's OpenPOWER Foundation initiative.

Linux.com: What are some of the most pressing challenges facing architects of infrastructure and software solutions today?

Doug Balog: One of the biggest IT challenges today is the pace of change driven by cloud, Big Data, mobile, social and security. These technologies fundamentally affect how infrastructure and software are developed, architected and, ultimately, how they perform. Look at Big Data: there is an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created every day, and it’s not just the amount of the data that’s significant. It’s the variety, velocity and veracity of the data that creates challenges. The way that data is collected, stored and analyzed can put incredible strain on hardware and software. Of course, this is just one example of how the major technological shifts are having a ripple effect on the design of infrastructures.

How do these challenges affect the way organizations approach infrastructure design?

While some believe that infrastructure doesn’t matter, what we're hearing from clients is that it matters now more than ever. The right infrastructure is able to address the challenges presented by cloud, Big Data, mobile, social and security in an efficient, sometimes application-specific manner. Big Data work requires lots of processors, cores and threads to spread out the queries for parallel analysis. These workloads also need large cache and memory spaces to provide the best context for the business insights. And whether it be in the cloud or on premise, network bandwidth with lower latency is critical to these new demands. By delivering choice to the marketplace, organizations can run their breadth of workloads on the most appropriate infrastructure. Openness delivers the benefit of innovation for those choices.

How is IBM working to address these issues?

IBM is completely committed to openness, and we have a long history of contributing to open source projects, both software and now hardware. Related to that, we truly believe that infrastructure matters, and that’s driving our recent investments of $3 billion for research and development of chip technology, $2.4 billion in the latest Power technology, and $1 billion in Linux on Power.

In fact, this past April, we released our new generation of Power Systems servers that run on the POWER8 processor. IBM along with Linux partners such as Canonical are also making it easier to port, develop and deploy applications written on an open stack of software to our Linux on Power platforms. IBM continues to add Linux distributions, tools and applications into its platforms with the inclusion of KVM and Ubuntu, and we continue to offer Linux distributions from Red Hat and SUSE. In addition, IBM has worked with others in the industry to found the OpenPOWER Foundation to drive open end-to-end innovation around the POWER8 architecture.

How can open source software and collaboration help meet these challenges?

In this new era, no single company can – or should – set an entire innovation agenda for the information technology industry. That’s why open source is critical to help address the challenges of cloud, Big Data, mobile, social and security. With collaboration and optimization across the computing stack and a community to innovate at each level, we can move to a more collaborative, open and transformative kind of innovation in order to deliver computing performance well into the future.

Anything else you'd like to mention about your upcoming keynote at LinuxCon?

Linux is everywhere from personal devices, to the enterprise, to embedded use cases, and IBM is very excited about the ongoing innovation and commitment that Linux brings. We're looking forward to ways in which open source communities can exploit the OpenPOWER Foundation, which has a shared view of openness. The keynote will discuss how we accelerate Linux and openness for enterprises to deliver against the speed of demands driven by cloud, Big Data, mobile, social and security changes with infrastructure that matters.

Register now for LinuxCon and CloudOpen North America.

 

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