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12/7/2010
09:21 PM
Bob Evans
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Global CIO #1 Story Of The Year: The Surge To Optimized Systems

IBM and Oracle are leading this new wave of highly integrated hardware-software combos that boost performance and cut busywork—and most other IT vendors are racing to catch up.

IBM invented them, Larry Ellison supersized them, SAP has revolutionized them, HP is promising them, and just about every single major IT vendor is rushing into the market for appliance-like systems that have shown great potential in redefining the types of business value that truly innovative IT can offer.

The new wave of highly optimized and deeply integrated hardware-software combinations known as optimized systems rushed to the forefront of IT innovation in 2010, promising the seductive combination of dramatically improved performance and sharply reduced customer-side integration, tuning, and tinkering.

These new hardware-software combos are being aimed at everything from OLTP to data warehousing to analytics to Exchange servers to middleware, BI, security and beyond, pushing well past the valuable but narrow niches—primarily data warehousing—that until recently were about the only areas in which appliances and purpose-built systems operated.

Because these optimized systems can offer such significant improvements in speed, performance, throughput, power, and range of capabilities, and because they can also significantly reduce the amount of time and effort IT organizations have to devote to tinkering, tuning, tweaking, wiring, and integrating, the rise of these new purpose-built systems is my choice as the #1 development in our list of the Top 10 Tech Stories Of The Year.

(For extensive analysis and insight on this dynamic new category, please be sure to check out our "Recommeded Reading" list at the end of this column.)

As we wrote in September in a column called Global CIO: Global CIO: Larry Ellison And IBM Lead Surge In Optimized Systems:

"Are these highly engineered and integrated hardware/software combos truly going to be game-changers for CIOs—delivering far greater performance, requiring dramatically shorter installation times, and demanding zero tuning and configuring and retuning—or is do we just happen to be seated in the front car of the hype-cycle roller coaster?

"I'm betting on the former because the whole premise of these new machines goes far, far beyond the no-value concept of simply taking two 5-pound bags of concrete and combining them into one 10-pound bag of concrete and calling that innovation. Instead, I think, these new-wave systems are surging into the market because they can help companies of all sorts make the leap into the very different and demanding world of real-time business.

"These new optimized machines are in full ascendancy at this time because they're the most powerful and highest-value delivery platforms for some dazzling new software applications and technologies designed to analyze not just bigger mountains of data, but in less time and with greater insights and with almost-unlimited variations.

"Today's next-generation enterprise software that's bringing alive the promise of business analytics, predictive analytics, real-time analytics, real-time OLTP, staggeringly large databases, and the soaring volumes of queries triggered by many millions of mobile business users has become so powerful and so complex that generic servers—even the biggest and gnarliest boxes—simply can't exploit the full range of insights, foresights and opportunities that today's top software can deliver." (End of excerpt.)

IBM invented the category decades ago, which was a key point extolled by arch-rival Larry Ellison early this year as he described how Oracle would extract full value out of Sun's technology by rigorously engineering Oracle software in parallel with Sun hardware and software to achieve unprecedented levels of speed and throughput and power.

Here's how Ellison connected IBM's pioneering work in integrated machines with his intention to overhaul Oracle as a systems company in a column called Global CIO: Global CIO: Oracle's Larry Ellison Declares War On IBM And SAP:

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