IBM's Play In Cloud Computing? Listening Carefully

James IBM's PR engine has been ratcheting up the volume about its efforts in cloud computing lately and if you are like me, I found their press releases confusing, so I got them on the phone to try and get past the hype to better understand what they are really doing in this space. Turns out they have turned on a powerful listening and learning engine.

IBM’s BlueCloud initiative isn't (at least not initially) an attempt to become a cloud services provider or to become a cloud computing platform, but rather to help their customers experiment with, try out, and custom design cloud solutions to fit their needs. Building off the IBM Innovation Center concept, IBM is providing Cloud centers that are places customers from enterprise and government accounts, as well as non-IBM customers can test out cloud computing concepts, mostly for deployment internal to their own data centers. Gerrit Huizenga, the technical solutions architect for BlueCloud for IBM's Systems & Technology Group (STG) said these efforts are helping them build out a series of cloud blueprints, or proven/standardized cloud infrastructures. "Our goal is to deliver solutions that make it much easier to deploy and manage these things," Huizenga said.

Another goal is to feed their various product roadmaps as well, allowing Tivoli, WebSphere and STG products to adapt to these new infrastructures and get ahead of the competition (and they have some early software products and solutions in this area too).

In the process, IBM is discovering and enabling interesting new business models and concepts that cloud computing makes possible. For example, the Wuxi Tai Lake Industry Investment and Development Company Limited, a developer of business parks in Wuxi China wanted to quickly enable its tenants to jump into the software market without having to buy and rack servers, so it built a centralized cloud center for all the tenants to share. If successful this could be a repeatable model for other office park developers in emerging markets.

The Reservoir project in Europe is another business model experiment of note that IBM is helping to build out. It asks the question: could a public cloud service like Amazon EC2 be democratized and provided as a public service to drive collaboration and fuel cross European commerce. Could this be Internet 3.0?

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of IBM’s investigations -- at least for enterprises infrastructure and operations professionals -- is their research into how public clouds can become extensions of private, corporate clouds when demand requires it, allowing true scale-on-demand. IBM has taken several attempts at providing capacity on demand, none of which have truly met the mark. A concerted listening and learning effort could yield a much more effective solution this time around. And it's the infrastructure foundations of cloud computing -- virtualization, abstraction, and workload management -- that may just make this version stick.

If you are an IBM customer with the desire to either build an internal cloud that uniquely fuels your business' needs or want to help shape the public cloud of the future, you may benefit from collaborating with IBM’s BlueCloud team. Your learnings could determine what these new infrastructures will look like, providing your business with early-mover advantage.

By James Staten

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