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IBM is growing its virtualization capabilities with the acquisition of CIMS Lab, a private company whose software enables businesses to track the use of their IT resources in a virtualized environment.

IBM announced the acquisition Jan. 25. No financial details were released.

The deal comes at a time when IBM can virtualize about 80 percent of a company’s IT infrastructure, and a growing number of businesses are turning toward virtualization to increase utilization and flexibility within their data centers, said Ron Riffe, director of IBM’s storage software strategy.

“As customers are dealing less with rigid [physical] boxes and dealing with more flexible virtual environments, the need to find a better way to count and analyze the utilization of these virtual resources—rather than their physical resources—is important,” Riffe said.

IBM already counts 1,750 storage customers as users of its virtualization technology, and is adding about three new customers each day, he said. Almost 65 percent of all IBM customers who are using server and storage virtualization technologies are small and midsize businesses, he said.

Virtualization enables businesses to run multiple workloads on a single machine, increasing the utilization and flexibility of the systems. The concept also is growing in other areas of the data center, including within applications and networks. Analyst firm IDC, of Framingham, Mass., expects global spending on virtualization technology to grow to almost $15 billion by 2009.

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The CIMS Lab Data Collector software collects raw data about IT resource use and molds it into organized financial information, which businesses can then use to see how their resources are being used in a virtualized environment. In an environment where different business units may use the same resources, that information can be used to determine how much to bill each unit for its use of the resources.

The software can be used with technology resources from IBM as well as its competitors.

Riffe said IBM for several years has been able to help users of its mainframe systems track their use of virtualized resources. “Customers now are asking for that same capability in their virtualized open systems,” he said.

IBM plans to spread the CIMS Lab technology throughout much of its hardware and management software portfolio. The company’s operation will be incorporated into IBM’s Tivoli software division, and the technology will be integrated into the Director management software to complement the virtualization capabilities in IBM’s xSeries servers, which are powered by Intel processors, and the pSeries systems, which are run on IBM’s own Power chips.

The CIMS Lab software also will be used in the Tivoli software to help customers with accounting and chargeback capabilities. IBM also will sell the software through its sales force and business partners.

Riffe said the acquisition of CIMS Lab already is complete, and much of the integration with IBM software already is in place thanks to a past working relationship between the two companies. IBM and CIMS Lab have more than 100 joint customers, he said.

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