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Pardon the pun, but there’s nothing elementary about IBM’s newly formed, New York City-based Watson Business Unit (BU).

IBM is committing $1 billion and 2,000 employees, as well as its considerable research and development (R&D) talents and marketing muscle to Watson, thus putting the full weight of its global technology and services brand behind the newly formed BU and initiative.

IBM CEO Virginia Rometty said that Michael Rhodin, most recently SVP of IBM’s Software Solutions Group, will take charge of the Watson Group. According to Rometty, the company established Watson as a separate BU based on the strong demand for cognitive computing. The IBM Watson Group will develop cloud-based technologies that can power services for businesses, industries and consumers.

Rometty also said the new IBM Watson Group notably integrates design, services, core functions, technologies, and a fully formed ecosystem which includes a design lab as well as hundreds of outside external partner applicants, foundations and advisors. All of these elements are crucial if Watson is to succeed.

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IBM and Business Partner Bechtle AG just won a $150 million contract to supply the European Commission with 6,100 System x and Flex Systems for office and application servers and supporting services.
This is the largest contract ever awarded by the EC, which is the executive body of the European Union institutions and agencies in the EC’s 27 member states.

The contract is significant for both the size of the award and the fact that IBM and Bechtle AG beat out tough competitors including rivals Bull, Dell, Fujitsu and Hewlett-Packard for the multi-tier/year contract. That they did so is a testament to the EC’s confidence in the performance, reliability and scalability of IBM System x and Flex Systems server line and IBM and Bechtle AG’s ability to deliver top notch technical service and support.

The $150 million contract also underscores IBM’s continued commitment to and investment in the Intel Corp. based x86 platform. Rumors have been swirling for some time that IBM might sell off the System x server line. Given the EC contract win, coupled with several other recent big System x wins and potential System x server deals in the offing, a sale seems unlikely.

In addition, IBM is readying a new line of System x servers for release in early 2014 based on Intel’s forthcoming “Ivy Bridge” EX processor. Sources within IBM said that Big Blue will bolster the considerable performance and reliability features of the upcoming Intel EX processor with significant add-on capabilities that go beyond Intel’s own server specifications.

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Big Blue Hardware is Rock Solid

IBM hardware retains its status as being best in class in terms of reliability, stability and performance and customer satisfaction. IBM’s System z mainframes recorded the least amount of downtime of any hardware platform. In the server hardware category systems with relatively small market shares, including Stratus Technologies ftServer 6300 and 4500 series and Fujitsu’s Primequest and Primergy Servers continue to score very high reliability.

Stratus Technologies of Maynard, MA offers Intel Xeon-based systems with mainframe-like fault tolerance and reliability with 99.999 % reliability. The Fujitsu Primergy and Fujitsu SPARC systems similarly deliver a high level of reliability and fault tolerance with 48% of reporting 99.999% or just over five minutes of per server/ per annum downtime due to unplanned outages.

The length and severity of Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 unplanned outages and the patching actions related to each correspond to specific line item capital expenditure (CAPEX) and operational expenditure (OPEX) costs for the business. Reliability, measured by downtime, can positively or negatively impact TCO and accelerate or delay ROI.

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