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IBM Strikes Major Cloud Deal With Panasonic

Electronics giant will port more than 300,000 employees, partners, and suppliers to LotusLive online collaboration system.

The cloud wars are heating up.

One day after HP and Microsoft said they would spend $250 million to co-develop cloud computing systems, IBM hit back with the announcement of what it says is the biggest cloud deal to date.

IBM said consumer electronics giant Panasonic has agreed to use its cloud-based LotusLive e-mail system for its worldwide operations. The deal initially covers 100,000 Panasonic employees, and will eventually expand to include more than 300,000 workers, partners and suppliers.

Financial terms were not released.

"LotusLive is an integral vehicle for our employees to truly function as a globally integrated enterprise," said Mitsuhiro Aoyama, VP for Corporate Information Systems at Panasonic, in a statement.

"It will allow us to work securely with our extended enterprise of Panasonic partners and customer as if they are all in the same location, bringing the promise of quicker, more efficient teamwork and commerce worldwide," said Aoyama.

LotusLive is a hosted suite of online collaboration solutions that includes modules for e-mail, conferencing, chat, file sharing, and other types of business communications. IBM launched the suite a year ago, and now counts more than 18 million users. Prices start at $3 per user, per month.

"Panasonic would only make this strategic move with the assurance that their daily business workflow will be safeguarded from costly interruptions and intrusions as millions of existing LotusLive users know," said Sean Poulley, VP for IBM Cloud Collaboration.

Cloud computing is a new-wave IT architecture under which businesses tap their data and applications over the Internet or intranets instead of from locally maintained servers. IBM estimates the cloud market will grow at about 28% annually through 2012, to $128 billion.

Given the market's growth potential, it's no surprise that major IT vendors are jumping in.

HP and Microsoft on Wednesday said they would spend $250 million over three years to jointly develop and integrate cloud technologies, including virtualization, systems management, and storage. "This is entirely cloud motivated," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a conference call.

Under the agreement, HP will tune its hardware to run Microsoft's SQL Server database, Exchange Server e-mail, and Hyper-V virtualization software, resulting in turnkey sytems with "push button" ease of deployment.

In addition, HP will enhance management software such as its Insight and Business Technology Optimization products for use in Windows data centers. And the companies will add Microsoft System Center tools to HP ProLiant servers, giving IT managers greater control over power management, among other benefits.

The pact also calls for HP to be the premier hardware supplier to Microsoft's data centers, including those used to offer its new Azure cloud services.

Our "A New IT Manifesto" report looks at a variety of new approaches and technologies that let IT rebels take on a whole new role, enhancing their companies' competitiveness and engaging their entire organizations more intimately with customers. Download the report here (registration required).

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