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IBM Turns To Cloud Management

Want a clue on what's next from IBM in cloud computing? Then take note that Dennis Quan, the guy behind IBM's cloud computing partnership with Google, recently moved into IBM Tivoli's development group. His new assignment tells a lot about the challenges IBM sees ahead.
Want a clue on what's next from IBM in cloud computing? Then take note that Dennis Quan, the guy behind IBM's cloud computing partnership with Google, recently moved into IBM Tivoli's development group. His new assignment tells a lot about the challenges IBM sees ahead.Quan is director of development in IBM's Autonomic Computing division. Autonomic computing refers to highly adaptive, self-managing distributed computing systems. In other words, it's got a lot in common with cloud computing, and Quan tells me that one of the things he's working on is aligning IBM's work in these two areas.

In his 10 years with IBM, Quan has had a hand in the company's most important data center initiatives. He helped create Blue Cloud, an ongoing effort to adapt software, hardware, and services to support cloud computing, and he recently served as CTO of IBM's High Performance On-Demand Solutions group.

Cloud computing may look and feel simple, but behind that ease of use lies data center complexity, and Quan is one of the computer scientists grappling with it. I asked him about IBM's cloud computing development work for the year ahead, and he focused on three things in particular -- security, service management, and standards.

Security comes up "all the time" in discussions with customers about cloud computing, so it's clear that security will continue to be a major issue, Quan says. He didn't provide details on what IBM will do in this area, but he did say that financial services companies, public agencies, and other large users want some level of "control" over systems in their cloud environment. That's vague, but remember that Quan now works in IBM's Tivoli systems management division. Look to IBM Tivoli to develop new capabilities that address cloud security by giving IT departments more control over the systems that house their data and applications.

Service management, including the ability to manage workloads among virtual servers, will be a second area of development. Quan talks of helping IT departments manage cloud services in hybrid environments comprised of public Web services and cloud-like services within their own data centers. IBM will address this requirement, in part, by injecting new capabilities into existing products, including its Tivoli Service Request Manager, Provisioning Manager, and Monitoring platform.

Standards are a third area of focus. The challenge here is to give IT folks a way to establish interoperability among cloud services from a variety of sources. "We're spending a lot of time in research and development looking at different ways to enable this," Quan says. Some of the work under way is related to SOA specs already in place. "We've got the ability to have services talk to one another in standards-compliant ways," says Quan. The next, and bigger, task is to "transplant" services from one cloud to another. "Those standards are in their infancy now," he says.

What about new cloud services from IBM? The company opened several cloud computing data centers this year, bringing the total to 13 centers, from which it offers Lotus Connections, its Bluehouse collaboration service (in beta), and, on a limited basis, some infrastructure as a service. Quan says it's reasonable to expect more cloud services from IBM Services, but he stopped short of promising anything along the lines of Amazon's EC2 or S3 services or Google's App Engine, where customers can dial up servers and storage in a few minutes with a credit cards.

For more on IBM's cloud computing strategy, see InformationWeek's Guide To Cloud Computing.