IBM gets serious about cloud computing

JamesWe've known for a while that cloud computing is important to IBM. It seems nearly every division has an effort in some aspect of the opportunity. And marketing has done its best to make it all look cohesive by wrapping these efforts under the Blue Cloud banner. But now we know they're serious. They have finally appointed a cloud czar, Erich Clementi, to bring all these efforts together. A veteran of their Systems & Technologies Group, he led SMB solutions, and last year he also took over IBM's Enterprise Initiatives. In those roles, Erich learned how important (and challenging) it is to coordinate efforts across their massive divisions while delivering holistic value to customers. Outside of Global Services, IBM doesn't have the best track record for these coordinated efforts, but we're willing to grant Clementi a grace period to prove us wrong.

And he won't be alone, as IBM has disclosed his set of lieutenants:

  • Kristof Kloeckner from IBM Software, gets the CTO title and the task of defining and driving a cohesive architecture and strategy. He'll be charted with energizing the vast IBM R&D groundswell toward a singular direction. I think we can help you here, Kristof!
  • Ric Telford is their product guy, trying to rationalize all the disparate SaaS related efforts across the company into an integrated (or at least coordinated) portfolio of services. This includes consulting and implementation services plus IBM's own SaaS offerings.
  • Willy Chiu, also from IBM Software, will lead IBM Cloud Labs. Chiu runs IBM's HPC-focused HiPods lab efforts and has been banging the Blue Cloud drum the loudest of all with the ribbon cuttings on "cloud centers" throughout the globe (or are these just HPC labs with new shiny "cloud washing?").

The marketing and sales responsibilities will fall to:

  • Mike Fay, from corporate communications and marketing, who will own the Blue Cloud banner and ensure message coordination and brand integrity.
  • Mike Hill, from IBM Sales, who will drive customer engagements, the solutions built for them and Blue Cloud-branded sales programs.

No word yet on the goals for this new organization but knowing that one set of hands will be taking the wheel is an encouraging sign. I've described IBM's Blue Cloud efforts to date as a big listening engine. IBM spread the word early in 2008 through its massive marketing bullhorn that it was a player in cloud computing. They now are taking every opportunity to engage with clients to learn what they want from the cloud. IBM has studied how the clients themselves define cloud, taking that accrued knowledge with them as they build the proof of concept/solution that the customer has asked for. Now they have a central place to put all that information and a way to turn it into a coordinated effort.

We're in the early days of cloud computing, so Erich and team have some time to get this right. Most of their traditional rivals (HP, Cisco, and Dell) have had teams in place for a while now but it's not clear the competition (with the exception of Microsoft) are any farther along with a cohesive strategy. This is catnip for Salesforce.com and Amazon Web Services, who get even more time to extend their lead and build upon their substantial foundations. It's also music to the ears of the venture capitalists behind the many startups in the cloud computing space who gain time to build up their value as a potential accelerator for these large vendor's efforts.

Citrix and VMware have presented credible-sounding visions of cloud infrastructures that should see the light of day in the next 12 months, and Azure should lift the Technical Preview veil in this timeframe, so the clock is ticking for the major infrastructure players to get their act together from a competitive standpoint.

The real question, though, is, "Are enterprises ready to consume these cloud platforms and services?" Harvard Medical says it is. So does ESPN, Starbucks, and, of course, the New York Times. But are you?

We want to know. If your company is leveraging cloud services or cloud computing platforms today, tell us your story. We'll keep your confidence, if you request it, or help spread the word about your efforts via this blog and our exclusive client research.

Leave a comment below or contact us directly. Is cloud computing heating up or just the hype surrounding it?

By James Staten

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