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Global CIO: IBM's Internal Cloud Projects Could Point To Future Products

IBM's CIO describes six internal cloud initiatives, including one the company has turned into a new business-analytics product for external customers.

IBM CIO Pat Toole has launched six major internal cloud-computing initiatives within IBM over the past several months, and since the largest of those projects has been turned into a commercial product, the other five could offer some insights into potential new cloud products coming down the line from IBM.

"We've made strong progress in cloud computing," Toole said in a phone interview last week, "but we're also taking a very pragmatic approach in looking at how we could apply cloud technology to specific workloads, and then we settled on six deep 'towers' and have launched pilots in each."

Here's a look at those six based on the phone discussion with Toole plus additional background from IBM.

1) "Blue Insight": The Business Analytics Cloud. This is the internal project that's also been turned into a commercial project. The internal cloud effort involved consolidating 100 data warehouses into a single repository being used by more than 100,000 IBM employees, Toole said, with a near-term goal to push that up to 130,000 users. The newly consolidated data warehouse in the cloud allows those IBM employees to analyze more than a petabyte of data. (For those of us who can't inherently imagine the vastness of a petabyte, IBM noted that a petabyte is the equivalent of 250 billion songs on iTunes, or 100 times the data contained in the Library of Congress.) IBM has ported 41 applications over to its Blue Insight Cloud, and has plans to add 95 more.

One example of how the company's using it is for analyzing leads from IBM's channel partners, Toole said. "We looked at the cycle time from opening to closing of a deal and found that by putting that application into Blue Insight, we were able to cut the time needed to go from qualification of the lead to giving to partner—we shaved a week off the process."

The externally marketed variant of IBM's internal Blue Insight is called Smart Business Analytics Cloud. The promise of that type of product can be seen in this comment from IBM about its internal Blue Insight project when it was launched late last year: "Today IBM is launching the largest private cloud for business analytics in the world—combining more than 100 separate data systems into one that will give more than 200,000 front-line IBM employees access to the kind of intelligence only the most senior executives once had. Whether coming in from a recent acquisition or a remote client in Burma, the most accurate and real time information -- a petabyte's worth of it -- will now be at employees' finger tips."

2) Collaboration/LotusLive Cloud. IBM says that in 2009, its employees, clients, and partners spent more than 200 million minutes in the LotusLive Meetings cloud. The company's begun a pilot for LotusLive Engage with 6,000 registered users sharing files internally and with clients, and intends to push LotusLive into other collaboration areas including file sharing, social networking, instant messaging, and more.

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3) Develop/Test Cloud. Emphasizing that "when you go to self-service provisioning paradigms, it is a huge help," Toole said this new cloud effort has changed the old provisioning SLA from 5 days to one hour. In cases where provisioning used to take 2 or 3 weeks, the new model can handle it in 2 or 3 hours. Based on those numbers, IBM says it plans to aggressively expand this cloud deployment: "Web application middleware stacks supporting 50% of our test activity were enabled first (WAS/DB2/MQ/Apache his), with additional work underway this year to cover 80% of our develop/test activity," the company said.

Next up are IBM's Desktop Cloud, Storage Cloud, and Production Cloud:

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