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The Right Architecture Any Way You Choose to Scale It

June 5, 2014

The following blog entry was written by David Bruce, an IBM marketing manager responsible for Power enterprise systems. He works with Power Systems marketing and development teams to help identify and communicate the capabilities and benefits of IBM Power enterprise systems to clients.

In my previous blog post, “Power Systems Delivers the Balance Today’s Businesses Need,” I talked about how IBM Power Systems is a fit-for-purpose architecture with a balanced design that adapts to your business needs instead of making the business adapt to the technology.

In this post I want to further explore the idea of technology adapting to the business by examining how Power Systems architecture adapts for systems of record and systems of engagement.

So you might be first asking yourself, “What are systems of record or systems of engagement?” and “How does this apply to scale-up or scale-out applications?”  First, let me briefly describe these terms:

  • Systems of record--These are the core business systems where you keep all of your customer data and where all  of the base processes to run your business reside (e.g., general ledger, inventory, production systems, CRM system, ERP system, analytics systems, etc.). A system of record must be reliable, always available, scalable and secure. These attributes align well with enterprise-class scale-up architecture. They offer flexible capacity, built-in redundancy and minimize risk by simplifying management and reducing the number of interfaces between systems and software layers where intrusions often take place.
  • Systems of engagement--These systems are fundamentally social. They are used to engage clients, are customer-focused and, importantly, they encourage collaboration. This includes mobile, social, analytics and web applications. Systems of engagement align well with scale-out or scale-up architecture.

Many authors suggest that businesses are shifting from systems of record to systems of engagement. Is that really true? What company wants their inventory records, warehouse control systems or payroll to be driven through social or collaborative applications? And, conversely, when you’re using a smartphone to check the availability of an item you want from a retailer, should you have to understand the warehouse structure, item lead time and traverse the order management system to see how many orders are ahead of you?

Reality is that we need both and we’re not favoring one in place of the other. We need systems of record to make sure our businesses run in an orderly and predictable way. We need systems of engagement to mask the complexities of business processes and engage the customer in a way that is appealing to them. These systems are not perfect substitutes for one another.

Infrastructure Matters

As systems of engagement become business critical, they need some of the attributes of systems of record. They need to be secure, available and they need to integrate with back-end systems of record. Customers expect more today. What good is a system of engagement that runs as an island without connection to enterprise data and other systems of engagement? 

To make these systems work for your customer and for your business, you need a flexible architecture. One approach is to select a platform for every type of application or work that you need. This approach can lead to having dozens of different management systems with many layers of software whose sole purpose is to connect two systems together. Another approach, likely a better one, is to select an architecture that adapts to the requirements of both back-end systems and customer engagement systems.

Power Systems architecture fits that description. It has long been known for its scale-up characteristics of being reliable, secure and always available, with high performance and excellent data management. Now with the announcement of the new POWER8 scale-out servers, the Power Systems platform adds community innovation, designed for big data and open and collaborative to that list of characteristics. These are ideal attributes to meet the needs of both systems of record and systems of engagement. And now with a scale out line-up that is designed for mobile, social, analytics and cloud work, businesses have the advantage of choosing a single architecture with flexible operating systems and flexible scale-out and scale-up deployment modes that can integrate across the enterprise. IDC’s recent paper, "Innovations to IBM Power Systems for the Virtualization, Multitenancy, and Cloud Demands of the 3rd Platform," offers additional exploration of this topic.

Think about how that could work. Your ERP and CRM systems are running on an enterprise Power server as a system of record. You need a social, customer-facing system to offer mobile access through the cloud and integrate real-time analysis of social and company data into a customer interaction (transaction). Slide in a new POWER8 scale-out server with for the system of engagement. POWER8 technology gives you the ability to analyze the data in real time and provide suggestions or input to the customer during the engagement. You have confined your mobile and cloud applications to the scale-out server, offering an additional layer of isolation from your ERP and CRM systems. PowerSC is watching to make sure your virtualized environment is secure and compliant. PowerHA is managing your systems of engagement to fail-over to your enterprise Power server if necessary. Want to do that on your existing system? Take advantage of a Power IFL as the system of engagement and it works the same way. What other architecture offers this level of flexibility and integration, and can be managed with a single set of platform skills?

How is your business ensuring that these systems of engagement for mobile and social applications are secure, reliable and integrated across the enterprise? I would love to hear your stories on how the Power Systems platform is helping you in today’s mobile and social environments.

Posted June 5, 2014| Permalink