On Demand: IBM Notches Global Win

Complete rip-and-replace puts pSeries and xSeries to work at LEGO

In an announcement doubtless timed to coincide with Hewlett-Packard Co.’s (HP) HP World Conference, being held this week in Atlanta, IBM Corp. announced a major new customer win. Danish toy maker The LEGO Company is carrying out a complete rip-and-replace of its existing HP infrastructure, opting for new pSeries and xSeries systems from IBM.

Big Blue positions LEGO’s defection as a major win for its nascent On Demand computing initiative. According to Jay Bretzmann, product marketing manager for IBM’s eServer xSeries line, LEGO will exploit capacity-on-demand capabilities in IBM’s pSeries and even xSeries servers.

“We put together a unique approach that said, 'We’ll monitor your utilization on an hourly basis, we’ll install more capacity than you need, you don’t pay for it unless you use it,'” he explains.

IBM’s pSeries systems feature a capability called On/Off Capacity Upgrade on Demand, which acts as a kind of “light switch” to engage and disengage excess capacity. Bretzmann acknowledges, however, that Big Blue isn’t promising similar capabilities in its xSeries systems: “Once we ship additional processors to the site, they become part of the base configuration, so we basically have to charge them,” he confirms. “We have an agreement that says we’ll install more than you need, we’ll monitor your utilization, we’ll charge you for what’s on site and we’ll send you more if you need it.”

LEGO is replacing an HP-based infrastructure with two of IBM’s top-of-the-line pSeries 690 systems, four midrange pSeries p650 servers, and 24 xSeries x440 boxes. Bretzmann says that LEGO will be replacing more than 230 HP systems with one-seventh as many IBM servers—although he acknowledges that LEGO is probably replacing several older HP servers. “I’ve got to believe that a number of them are older systems, but it’s also the special technology that we have to increase utilization. We use VMware technology that allows us to drive up your average Intel server utilization from 5 to 10 percent on a 24 basis, to something like 50 percent,” he maintains.

In a statement, Hal Yarborough, LEGO’s senior director of IT, said that IBM’s On Demand infrastructure was a key factor in his company’s move. “[T]he key reason for going with IBM was the flexibility their solution offered. IBM was able to provide an on-demand solution that matched our business needs for a cohesive, worldwide IT infrastructure that adapts itself to our very cyclical business and need for rapid introduction of new products.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.