Amid furloughs in IBM's hardware organization, Big Blue launched two efforts to help strengthen its server business. First up, IBM introduced new Flex Systems to help partners build larger clouds in smaller data centers. Next, IBM launched the OpenPOWER Consortium (backed by Google and others) to promote POWER microprocessors for cloud computing. Can those efforts get the company's server business back on track?

The new Flex System offerings further converge servers, storage and networking. Also, an upgraded Flex System Manager allows MSPs and channel partners to monitor and manage up to 5,000 infrastructure end points from mobile devices running Apple iOS, Android or Blackberry. 

IBM says more than 4,500 channel partners now support the PureFlex and Flex System.

Meanwhile, Google, IBM, Mellanox, NVIDIA and Tyan have launched the OpenPOWER Consortium – an open development alliance based on IBM's POWER microprocessor architecture. The Consortium intends to build advanced server, networking, storage and GPU-acceleration technology for cloud data centers.

The VAR Guy's response? Flex System sure sounds promising. But the shift to cloud computing has put the squeeze on traditional hardware sales. IBM has struggled to stay ahead of that trend. Moreover, most public clouds seem to be built on commodity x86 hardware -- which could also pressure IBM's POWER business over the long haul.

Reality Check

Is there a quick fix here for IBM? Certainly not -- especially as the computer giant asks hardware employees to take a one-week furlough (with one-third pay) later this month or in September. Also, IBM recently had layoffs and the company's recent quarterly reports have been weak.

Bottom line: It's a bit strange to announce a bunch of new hardware only a few weeks before you send your hardware employees out on a furlough. Or did The VAR Guy miss something?