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IT Leadership // IT Strategy

IBM Hopes Tigers Will Tame Cloud

Big Blue is deploying elite teams to secure cloud computing wins as it looks to reignite services growth.

IBM’s revenues from cloud computing are on track to hit $7 billion by 2015, a fact the company attributes in part to its decision last year to create small, highly specialized teams to pitch the benefits of the new-wave architecture to high-profile customers around the world.

Known internally as Tiger Teams, the units are “the tip of the spear” in pursuing cloud engagements, said IBM Global Technology Services general manager Scott Hopkins, in an interview Tuesday following a keynote he delivered at the Interop technology conference in Las Vegas, at Mandalay Bay.

The teams, as small as four to five individuals in the early stages of the process, comprise individuals with specialized skills in software development, infrastructure planning, services delivery, and other disciplines, and are built to respond rapidly to customer questions and concerns about a possible move into the cloud.

Once an engagement is in process, the teams could expand significantly depending on the resources needed to plan and, from IBM’s point of view, hopefully snag a new account. “20,000 sales reps have gone through extensive training on the cloud,” said Hopkins.

That IBM is devoting such resources to cloud services shouldn’t be surprising. The company’s Global Services unit, which accounts for about half of total revenue, has seen little growth in recent quarters as CIOs shied away from big outsourcing deals during the recession. But Hopkins said the company is seeing strong growth in revenue from cloud services.

What’s driving the demand is the fact that the amount of data that enterprises must deal with, from sources as disparate as call centers and iPhones, is such that CIOs are now looking at ways to hand off much of the analysis and processing of that data. Hopkins said that 1.2 zettabytes, or 1.2 billion terabytes, of data now exists in the digital economy, up 45% from just last year.

“CIOs are saying, ‘I can’t do this the way I’ve done it before,’” Hopkins said during his Interop keynote.

IBM is not only using its worldwide data centers to provide cloud services such as hosting and SaaS, it’s also using its portfolio of business analytics tools—bolstered by more than $14 billion in acquisitions and internal development over the past three years--to help customers spot choke points in their infrastructures that could be dispatched to the cloud.

According to a soon to be released IBM survey, 50% of CIOs are in the process of “totally reengineering” their internal processes to take advantage of cloud and other advanced architectures, like virtualization, to reduce their internal IT footprints without compromising their ability to manage the explosion of data.

“How do I manage the cost of IT without doing something radically different?” is a question that CIOs will increasingly face, Hopkins said.

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