IBM, SAP Make Cloud Computing Breakthrough

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The two vendors open new opportunities in cloud-based services by bridging the once-insurmountable gap of making running applications work on two different networks.

Migrating running applications and data centre workloads between remote locations across different networks wasn’t supposed to be possible. But IBM and SAP broke through that barrier and may have created a means for solution providers to deliver cloud-based computing that’s better tailored for their customers’ needs.

The European Union-funded Reservoir project works with 13 technology partners, including IBM and SAP, to develop what Dr. Yaron Wolfsthal, senior manager for system technologies at IBM’s Research Lab in Haifa, Israel, calls “a next-generation infrastructure for services and application delivery.”

The project is focused on the idea that no single data centre and no single cloud can serve the needs of all users at all times, and that there must be interconnection and “federation” of clouds that can be transparently managed and applications that can be migrated based on performance and service needs of customers, he says. This cloud computing project aims to develop technologies to support a service-based online economy, where resources and services are transparently provisioned and managed, he says.

What that translates to is utility computing in a commercial setting, says Wolfsthal, in which solution providers deliver applications and services to customers via the cloud, and those customers will receive solutions that are better customised and tailored to address the specific business needs, performance requirements and service level needs of their organisation.

“Our solutions are complementary with all 13 of our partners, including SAP. We knew that we could collaborate to address joint customers pain points,” says Wolfsthal.

“One of the main problems was migrating live, running applications across remote locations from one network to another – this was something experts and analysts have been claiming is impossible,” he says.

The cloud computing approach to IT delivery is an increasingly popular answer to the challenges of complexity in the data centre, skyrocketing energy costs and the need to dynamically allocate IT resources to address changing workloads and business priorities.

“The breakthrough we’re showing is that applications can flexibly move across remote physical servers, regardless of location — which makes our work a strong enabling technology for the cloud,” explained Dr. Joachim Schaper, vice president, Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA) of SAP Research. “Specifically, in cloud-scale environments, service providers will need to provide users with access to services across the cloud. Service providers will need to compete on performance and quality of service. The future cloud will need to support application mobility across disparate data centres to enhance performance,” says Schaper.

“The new technology is allowing us to optimise load balancing of applications across remote servers. When changes in workload occur, the new technology automatically balances resource utilisation and power consumption by evacuating and turning off under-utilised servers—even entire data centres—when demand drops, and powering on idle servers when load increases,” says Wolfsthal

In the demonstration, the migration of SAP workloads across the cloud is supported by IBM’s Power6 systems, which enable users to run separate applications on different virtual machines, called logical partitions, on the same physical server.

The IBM Power6 system’s Live Partition Mobility capability further allows for the movement of a partition between Power6-based servers in the data centre with no application downtime, resulting in better system utilisation, improved application availability, and energy savings.

Currently, the technology is demonstrated only as a proof-of-concept, says Wolfsthal, but both IBM and SAP are hopeful that the solution will soon be integrated into new products.

“We always hope that the breakthroughs we make in the research division will influence the product development guys,” he says. “We know there are plenty of real-world applications for this technology, but where and when it will evolve into a product, that’s up to the business folks,” Wolfsthal says.