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IBM Brings Cloud Computing To Earth With Massive New Data Centers

Big Blue plans to build a data center in North Carolina and open a "cloud computing center" in Tokyo at a cost of nearly $400 million.
Continuing to fuel the landgrab in the cloud, IBM says it will build a massive new data center in North Carolina's Research Triangle and will open another "cloud computing center" in Tokyo, at a cost of nearly $400 million. The two new facilities mark the company's eighth and ninth centers worldwide to support a range of initiatives in cloud computing.

The largest operator of data centers in the world, IBM has partnered with Google on a major academic cloud-computing project, open to specific universities. The new facilities will be open to large enterprises and governments as well as academic institutions. In particular, the Raleigh, N.C., center will serve enterprise customers who have outsourced some or all of their IT operations to IBM, while the Tokyo branch will support companies that wish to adopt cloud computing themselves.

"We are helping traditional enterprises embrace cloud computing," said Rich Lechner, IBM's VP for cloud computing, "by showing how customers can implement it themselves."

IBM is among several major technology companies, including Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and Amazon.com, that have mapped out plans to become leading providers of cloud computing resources to allow companies to access applications and stored data that live in off-premises data centers and access them online. Microsoft, for instance, is reportedly working on a research project dubbed "Midori," focused on shifting much of the functionality of the Windows operating system to a Web-based service.

InformationWeek recently developed a "Guide To Cloud Computing" that describes the cloud computing strategies of Amazon, Google, Salesforce.com, and five other leading vendors. The free report can be downloaded here.

Announced last year in Shanghai, IBM's Blue Cloud aims to establish a distributed computing fabric across many locations worldwide, offering businesses a comprehensive package of cloud-based services. The companies' cloud-based efforts include an academic collaboration with Google to provide students and professors at selected universities with access to massive high-performance computing resources; give employees of companies with geographically distant offices the ability to collaborate and share data over private networks; supply software-development companies in emerging economies like China rapidly scalable storage and applications capability; and help companies quickly develop their own cloud-based efforts, as in Tokyo.

This year IBM has opened centers in Dublin, Ireland; Beijing and Wuxi, China; and Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Raleigh data center is one of IBM's most ambitious cloud build-outs to date. Big Blue will spend $360 million to renovate an existing building on its Research Triangle campus. With 60,000 square feet of raised-floor space initially, the new data center will begin hosting clients in late 2009 and will eventually offer more than 100,000 computing cores, said Lechner. It is also designed to be one of the most energy-efficient and nonpolluting large-scale computing facilities ever built.

"It's all about unbounded scalability," Lechner remarked, "and helping companies extend their existing infrastructure and overcome the operational hurdles they're facing around scale, availability, and energy efficiency."

IBM first opened a high-performance on-demand computing facility in New York in 2005. One advantage it enjoys over other cloud rivals like Google and Amazon, which essentially offer a do-it-yourself approach, is its army of system engineers and consultants who can assist companies in harnessing and deploying resources in the cloud.