When IBM launched PureSystems in April, more than 600 companies stood in support of the integrated computing systems designed to simplify enterprise computing. IBM had invested $2 billion in R&D and acquisitions over a four-year period to develop the system.

But IBM didn't stop there. IBM recently introduced the Flex System Manager platform. Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, sat in on an IBM call with industry analysts. During the call, IBM execs detailed some of the features that make Flex System Manager a good solution for the problems that come along with IT complexity.

We caught up with King to get his insights on what IBM has to offer. He told us to first keep in mind that Flex System Manager is designed to complement IBM's new PureSystems solutions, which aim to fill a gap it believes exists between general-purpose computing systems and dedicated appliances like Oracle's Exadata.

Managing Virtualization

"PureSystems feature an all new integrated system architecture which supports both IBM Power and x86-based servers, associated storage and networking resources, and cross-platform technologies, including virtualization," King said. "The result is a highly flexible solution that can deliver the simplicity of appliances, the scalability required by business-critical workloads, and the efficiency and agility needed for cloud computing."

As King sees it, IBM's Flex System Manager provides levels of control and insight into hardware and software performance that are often missing from cross-platform solutions. In essence, he said, Flex System Manager offers a single, ready to run system that includes all the pieces of the operating infrastructure. King offered two real-world examples: managing virtualization and system resource pools.

"The rapid adoption of x86-based virtualization has certainly been the source of happy days for many vendors and businesses but it's sometimes resulted in a new complexity issue -- how to cope with the complexities of hypervisor heterogeneity or dealing with multiple, usually mutually exclusive virtualization solutions," King said. "IBM is taking a three-prong approach to addressing this issue with Flex Systems Manager."

With Flex System Manger, IT admins can also manage and optimize pools of IBM's PureFlex resources as if they were single systems, with capabilities including dynamic virtual machines and image placement, workload-aware resource management and mobility, and ongoing optimization and rebalancing, King said.

Maximizing Cloud Infrastructures

At the end of the day, King said IT complexity is unlikely to disappear unless vendors standardize on a single hardware or software platform, unless buyers stop looking for deals, and unless technological evolution follows a highly predictable, monocultural path. Until that day arrives, he said, vendors will pursue and their customers will profit from highly innovative solutions to existing and emerging problems.

"That describes IBM's Flex System Manager in a nutshell," King concluded. "In essence, the company is leveraging its decades of system hardware and software leadership into a solution -- Flex System Manager -- designed both to help address considerable current IT management problems and to maximize the value of next-generation cloud computing infrastructures."