IBM Embraces Corporate Cloud


IBM is making available a new portfolio of cloud computing products and services that it claims will provide corporate users with ease of use to rival the consumer Web

IBM has been trying to get its Big Blue arms around cloud computing for a while, perhaps because the cloud is one of the few things in IT that IBM didn’t help invent.

The vision from Armonk, N.Y., was fuzzy for a couple of years, but now the glasses are on and the focus appears to be sharpening. Following a five-year-long, multibillion-dollar development effort called Project Blue Cloud, IBM on 16 June will make available a new portfolio of cloud computing products and services that it claims will provide corporate users with ease of use to rival the consumer Web.

In short, IBM has designed and built a number of shortcuts for cloud computing development, so that an enterprise aiming to build its own internal or external cloud-type system can do it with the least amount of time, effort and capital.

Cloud computing, or utility computing, serves up computing power, data storage or applications from one data centre location over a grid to thousands or millions of users on a subscription basis. This general kind of cloud—examples include the services provided online by Amazon EC2, Google Apps and—is known as a public cloud, because any business or individual can subscribe.

Private clouds are secure, firewalled systems that tie together an enterprise with its supply chain, resellers and other business partners.

“What we are doing here is branding the choices that we are giving clients for the deployment of cloud solutions,” IBM Cloud CTO Kristof Kloeckner told eWEEK. “It’s a family of preintegrated hardware, storage, virtualisation and service management solutions that target specific workloads.”

Those workloads can be virtually anything a company needs to have done on a daily basis: e-mail, retail transactions, scientific computations, health record management, financial services, and a number of other functions.

Thus, IBM now sees cloud computing as a “reintegration of IT around types of work, with the most successful clouds being defined by the types of work they do—for instance a search cloud or a retail transaction cloud,” Kloeckner said.

Three cloud models offered

IBM is now offering three cloud models for delivering and consuming development and test services:

* IBM Smart Business Test Cloud, a private cloud behind the client’s firewall, with hardware, software and services supplied by IBM;

* Smart Business Development & Test, and Smart Business Application Development & Test, which use Rational Software Delivery Services on IBM’s existing global cloud system; and

* IBM CloudBurst, a preintegrated set of hardware, storage, virtualization and networking [options], with a built-in service management system.

The underpinnings of all this are Tivoli Provisioning Manager 7.1 and the new Tivoli Service Automation Manager, which automates the deployment and management of computing clouds.

Tivoli Storage as a Service is the foundation for IBM’s Business Continuity and Resiliency Services cloud. Beginning later in 2009, developers will be able to use Tivoli data protection via a cloud service.

Back in February, IBM released Rational AppScan 7.8, an application management system that enables Web services to be secure and regulations-compliant. Alongside the new Rational AppScan OnDemand, this service software ensures that Web services are monitored on a continuous basis and provide IT managers with ongoing security analysis.

Using this catalog, users can get a custom private cloud built by IBM, get started immediately on building their own cloud with IBM CloudBurst or choose to receive standardised cloud services from the existing IBM cloud.

IBM also is providing optional virtual desktops, which use about two-thirds less power than traditional desktops and laptops and are much lighter loads for servers to handle.

IBM offers two options in this realm: the IBM Smart Business Desktop Cloud, which is a cloud service delivered via the client’s own infrastructure and data center; and the IBM Smart Business Desktop on the IBM Cloud, which is delivered via IBM’s own public cloud.

IBM: Listening, learning for two years. “Since their announcement of Project Blue Cloud a year and a half ago, IBM has been doing nothing but listening and learning. And this [represents] the first fruits of that,” James Staten, Forrester Research principal analyst for IT Infrastructure, told eWEEK. “We think they actually got it right.”

IBM now understands what a cloud solution is and what an enterprise needs it to do, Staten said.

“These are just 1.0 offerings, but they’re correct in understanding the solution,” Staten said. “The first real toe-in-the-water effort by any enterprise is going to be tied to [development]. IT operations, the central guys who run the data centre, don’t like the fact that their ‘innovative’ developers are bypassing them and going to use public cloud resources. They want to offer something as an alternative to that, but it has to meet their security [requirements] and pass all their processes and procedures.”

IBM understands this, so it has two offerings, the first being a hosted cloud with enterprise-level security parameters around it, Staten said.

“It’s not that different from some of the others that are available, such as Terramark or Rackspace, but it has the IBM stamp of legitimacy on it,” Staten said. “So if you’re an IBM customer, or customer of IBM outsourcing, this becomes attractive.”

The second option is software development inside the cloud, “which is what the IT ops guys really want: to keep all that development effort staying inside the data center,” Staten said. “They just needed something they can deploy quickly that uses the cloud; that’s what this CloudBurst thing is all about.”

Hewlett-Packard recently launched HP BladeSystem Matrix, a similar set of products and services. “It’s all the same components,” Staten said. “They just didn’t call it ‘cloud.'”

For current IBM-Tivoli customers, “this will be really easy to consume,” Staten said. “Because they’ve built a tie-in to Tivoli Provisioning Manager and Tivoli Service Automation Manager, which are at the core. So this is going to become really, really simple.

“If you’re a non-IBM shop, this is kind of a nonevent.”

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