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IBM Drifts Slowly Toward Mainstream Cloud Computing

Building on its 15-month old Blue Cloud initiative, IBM today introduces additions to its cloud computing portfolio and named new customers and partners. Big Blue's cloud strategy remains focused on the enterprise; customers can't pay by the minute with credit cards, as they can with Amazon Web Services and other general purpose cloud offerings.
Building on its 15-month old Blue Cloud initiative, IBM today introduces additions to its cloud computing portfolio and named new customers and partners. Big Blue's cloud strategy remains focused on the enterprise; customers can't pay by the minute with credit cards, as they can with Amazon Web Services and other general purpose cloud offerings.IBM's new products include a cloud-management dashboard called Service Management Center for Cloud Computing that works in conjunction with other its products, including the updated Tivoli Provisioning Manager 7.1 and Tivoli Service Automation Manager. Service Management Center for Cloud Computing can be used to monitor and manage "private cloud" environments inside a company's own data center. The ability to manage public cloud services such as AWS may come later, though IBM hasn't disclosed specific plans for that. (For more, see my post "IBM Turns To Cloud Management.")

IBM also announced Tivoli Storage as a Service, aimed at business continuity and recovery, not general-purpose storage. IBM already offers business continuity as a service; what's new is the Tivoli interface, making the service more appealing to IT departments that use the Tivoli platform.

In addition, IBM and Juniper Networks are teaming to demonstrate hybrid clouds, where private clouds overflow to secure public clouds when extra compute capacity is required. For now, the demo is limited to IBM's nine cloud labs.

What these and other IBM cloud developments, including new strategy and planning services and an organizational team focused on cloud computing, show is that IBM is methodically expanding its cloud platform capabilities. But let's be clear -- it's doing so with a focus on enterprise-class products and services, not on the broader market targeted by Amazon, Google, and others.

In fact, several of IBM's just-announced products and services aren't here yet. Tivoli Storage as a Service won't be available until sometime later this year, and the IBM-Juniper cloud bursting demo is just that, a demo, not a generally available service. (For more on cloud storage, see InformationWeek's downloadable report, "Cloud Storage's Top Uses.")

Ric Telford, IBM VP of cloud services, points out that IBM has been offering on-demand computing to enterprise customers for nearly five years, and he says the company has "several hundred" customer engagements involving its cloud services. New examples include Elizabeth Arden, Nexxera, the U.S. Golf Association, and Indigo Bio Systems.

Telford hints that IBM could offer a broader range of cloud services to a wider range of customers. "Other scenarios and use cases are certainly on the table," he says. As IBM plods along, however, other cloud service providers are forging ahead with cheap-and-easy services that appeal to individual developers, small businesses, and others outside the scope of enterprise IT. It will be interesting to see if IBM is able to catch up or, indeed, if it even tries.