IBM has teamed up with AT&T to offer a service that gives customers access to Big Blue's back-end infrastructure over the telecom giant's secure private lines.
"It's an integrated, end-to-end solution that provides access to cloud computing resources, and a secure pipe over which to access them," said Dennis Quan, IBM's VP for SmartCloud Infrastructure, in an interview. "It's going to unleash a lot of pent up demand for cloud computing because we've made the consumption of cloud a lot simpler."
IBM and AT&T plan to formally launch the service, which will be aimed at IBM's Fortune 1,000 enterprise customer base, in the first quarter of 2013.
"AT&T and IBM are delivering a new, network-enabled cloud service that marries the security and speed of AT&T's global network with the control and management capabilities of IBM's enterprise cloud," said AT&T Business Solutions CEO Andy Geisse, in a statement.
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The service is available only to customers who sign up for IBM's SmartCloud Enterprise+ service.
Quan declined to say whether customers would be charged a premium for access to AT&T's private VPN network, over which the service will run, but said that both compute and network resources available through the partnership would be sold on a "pay as you go" basis.
IBM's pitch is that the service will make it easier for enterprises to establish a secure, one-to-one connection to its SmartCloud platform, which include access to virtual machines and storage, as well as application and security services.
"When a customer requests access to these virtualized resources, the IBM back end is able to tap into AT&T's services and automatically set up all the necessary networking connections and deliver that as a single service," said Quan. "Some of these things would require an extensive amount of configuration and overhead to manually piece together in terms of networking and compute capabilities."
The partnership with AT&T is a sign that IBM wants to ramp up its presence in the cloud computing market.
Despite offering a wide range of cloud services, the company is often left out of vendor conversations that typically include Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft's Windows Azure.
"We're offering a general cloud computing platform that supports enterprise applications running on a variety of platforms, Windows being one of them," said Quan. "But we're also including Linux, and other popular platforms for running applications, like higher-end Unix systems. We're providing a series of platforms that suit the large enterprise customer and the diversity of IT platforms that their applications need to run on."
Quan said IBM is committed to posting $7 billion in cloud-related sales by 2015, a year in which the company has also promised to deliver earnings per share of $20.