IBM Brags Of 49 Cloud Data Centers

IBM promised 40 SoftLayer cloud data centers globally by the end of 2014. Through a partnership with Equinix, it's ending the year with 49.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

December 18, 2014

4 Min Read
IBM ended 2014 with a larger number of data centers than expected.

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IBM's SoftLayer cloud unit will finish the year with its promised 40 data centers around the world, plus nine add-ons that it will obtain through a partnership with Equinix for use of its facilities, for a total of 49.

IBM announced Wednesday that it has opened SoftLayer public cloud facilities in Frankfurt, Mexico City, and Tokyo. IBM acquired SoftLayer in 2013 for an undisclosed amount.

In addition, its agreement with Equinix gives it a presence in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Dallas, and Silicon Valley in the US. In Europe, the SoftLayer cloud is available at Equinix data centers in Amsterdam and Paris. In the Asia-Pacific region, it's now available through Equinix in Sydney, Singapore, and Tokyo.

IBM entered 2014 determined to show it was committed to establishing a larger presence in public cloud services, something that its actions up to that point had left in doubt. It talked about "enterprise cloud any way you want it" in 2011. In 2013, it acquired an aggressive young cloud services supplier, SoftLayer, which was amassing customers but dealing with smaller organizations than was typical of IBM's own customer base. Brought inside IBM, it's been retooled into more of an enterprise-compatible service.

[Wondering how IBM secures its cloud? See IBM Launches Cross-Cloud Security Protection.]

IBM said it would spend $1.2 billion in 2014 establishing broader cloud services and adding 15 data centers to the 25 operating under the IBM and SoftLayer labels. As an example of IBM's current global reach, some of those data centers are in Mumbai, London, Beijing, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Toronto, and Raleigh, N.C.

"We've experienced $4 billion in client wins since [the start of] November," Angel Diaz, vice president of cloud performance solutions at IBM, said in an interview. Some of that business came from Lufthansa in Germany; ABN Amro in the Netherlands; WPP in the UK; Woox Innovations in Hong Kong; and Dow Water and Process Solutions, a unit of the Dow Chemical Co., and Thomson Reuters in the US. "We've done more than what we said we would. Demand is so high, we're running as fast as we can go."

One of IBM's calling cards for prospective cloud users is its Bluemix development platform on top of SoftLayer infrastructure, its implementation of the open source Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service. IBM has added its tools and software to the development platform, which originated in VMware and the VMware/EMC spinoff, Pivotal. IBM is a major contributor to Cloud Foundry and OpenStack code, which helps it look like a reliable partner to companies adopting those options.

Bluemix is available through each SoftLayer location, Diaz said. IBM also offers 99.99% uptime with its cloud services, compared to Amazon's 99.95%. If a customer's system goes down, IBM said in its Dec. 17 announcement, support teams "can recover data in minutes to insure that it has little to no impact on business operations."

In addition, more so than an Amazon, Microsoft, or Google, SoftLayer offers bare metal servers to run enterprise legacy applications.

In September, in another move to attract mission-critical enterprise business, IBM opened a cloud resiliency center in Research Triangle Park, N.C., to provide high-level business continuity capabilities to customers using its cloud services. It's intended to supply state-of-the-art techniques in cloud use for companies that can't afford downtime for a cloud-based system.

At the same time, IBM must play catchup with Amazon Web Services, which is finding numerous enterprise customers of its own with its growing set of cloud services. Amazon started offering infrastructure-as-a-service in 2006. IBM showed that it was serious about IaaS with its June 2013 acquisition of SoftLayer. IBM is showing greater finesse at addressing enterprise concerns about security and continuity; Amazon and Google are showing experience in supplying low-cost automated services and container services, along with virtual machines.

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About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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