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IBM To Invest $1.2 Billion Into New Cloud Data Centres

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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Big Blue is looking to expand its cloud capabilities across the globe

Computer giant IBM is committing over $1 billion (£610m) towards new data centres round the world in order to deal with the continued rise in demand for cloud computing.

The company is looking to provide its cloud services from 40 data centres across five continents, including building 15 new ‘cloud centres’ in London, Washington DC, Hong Kong, and Toronto and elsewhere. “IBM is providing unparalleled enterprise cloud capabilities – we can build our footprint in a wide range of countries”, Dennis Quan, VP of Cloud at IBM, told TechWeekEurope. 

The news means that IBM’s cloud will now have a major presence in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, with plans to expand into the Middle East and Africa soon, a move which could ease the fears of users about surveillance by US intelligence services. 

The Cloud (c) Melpomene, Shutterstock 2013

Connecting up the continents

Having a global data centre network will allow IBM’s customers greater access to their data, as they will no longer have to wait for a server in a faraway country to respond to their requests. Alternatively, if a local server fails, there is an entire connected global network to fall upon as backup. A network with footprints in so many countries also helps avoid legal issues, says Quan, as being able to keep data from a particular country inside its borders helps avoid tricky legal issues.

IBM already works with major companies such as AT&T, Honda and Visa, and believes that the global cloud market is set to grow to $200 billion by 2020, as enterprises and government agencies in particular employ cloud services to market and sell their products, manage their supply chain and transform their business practices. “We’ve seen a lot of progress made on the acceptance of the cloud model, as well as being able to articulate exactly what cloud is and what customers can make of it”, said Quan, who has worked in IBM’s cloud division since its creation in 2007.

The company bought cloud infrastructure business SoftLayer in June 2013 for around $2 billion, a move which has allowed IBM to develop and expand its cloud services, which have since been pushed out to around 2,400 new clients following a recently signed partnership with India, China and Eastern Europe. The new data centres will double SoftLayer’s cloud capacity and will allow companies to develop and build global applications which don’t require the public internet and thus are not affected by traffic when connecting to servers across multiple countries.

Purchasing SoftLayer was a major step towards IBM facilitating a global network, said Quan, “SoftLayer had a huge customer base, bringing a breadth and scale that is hard to find in this industry. They also helped us gain access to several new market sectors, and will contribute towards us creating a reliable, scalable global network.”

The new data centres will have in-built protection against outages, such as the one which hit Amazon earlier in the year, costing the online retailer an estimated $5 million in sales. This is due to each data centre being made up of a minimum of four PODs (points of distribution), stand-alone units consisting of 4,000 servers, which are self-reliant and can handle being either the sole location of data or as part of a network during a data spike, such as a broadcaster handling a major sporting event.

“IBM is continuing to invest in high growth areas,” said Erich Clementi, senior vice president of IBM Global Technology Services. “IBM recognises the universal need to deliver mission-critical workloads in a cloud environment that are secure, reliable and built on open standards as contrasted with the commoditised cloud model that emphasizes low costs, instead of business growth and innovation.”

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