IBM's new bite-sized cloud projects in Malaysia and Italy
By Carl Brooks, Technology Writer, SearchCloudComputing.com 23-Jul-2010
A flurry of new projects from IBM signal the company's slow but steady shift to cloud computing. IBM is pitching small-scale use cases and "cloud wins" to demonstrate where it sees the opportunity today for cloud: infrastructure automation and virtual desktop services. It also offers public cloud services, but customer numbers remain small.
“Genomics cloud” and animation cloud
For instance, IBM is helping the University of Bari in Italy deliver mapping and market data via virtual desktops on fishing boats; and it's selling the University of Missouri a "genomics cloud" to speed up genome sequencing and analysis. International hotel chain Sol Melia is using IBM to manage its IT services and help the chain move toward a centralized, web-based virtual desktop platform for its hotel sites around the world.
|Academic organizations represent the perfect place to experiment, and bright-eyed students and idealistic administrators are a plus, too.|
In Malaysia, IBM is helping state-run Multimedia Development Corporation, better known as the MDeC, run an animation cloud that can be accessed over the Internet to render computer-animated images.
In addition, last week, IBM launched a second cloud services data center in the EU, and it's heading an EU research effort named "PINCETTE" to improve the reliability of complex information systems. None of these are enterprise-sized deployments.
"The pickings are pretty slim, but literally everything anyone is doing [in the cloud] is pretty innovative, so they want to push that," said Sean Hackett, research director for the 451 group. Hackett said that IBM sees plenty of room in the short term for research and experimentation, as evidenced by its university projects and new research groups.
IBM does offer a broad portfolio of products and services it calls cloud, which include online services, "cloud-in-a-box" appliances and data analytics software. But for now, the company cheerfully admits that large-scale total IT transformations into cloud environments are far off.
Bruce Otte, senior marketing manager for cloud at IBM, said that cloud computing represents a fundamental market and technology shift, but added that IBM is looking to smaller, bite-sized cloud projects first. He said academic organizations represent the perfect place to experiment, and bright-eyed students and idealistic administrators are a plus, too.
"After all," he said, "for lack of a better term, the labor is really cheap!"
IBM's “cloud-hub” dream
In the long term, Hackett said IBM wants to become a "cloud hub," a central provider of services that IT departments can tap for highly standardized and integrated services for short-term, on-demand use as well as providing infrastructure where appropriate. It sees itself as eventually able to provide instant access to complex and highly automated data services that enterprises can use with existing backend systems and data without much work.
"It's a solutions approach; it's pre-integrated," he said.
Hackett said IBM has spent US$8 billion over the last couple of years building out a dozen data centers around the world, a significant capital investment even for a company of IBM's size. Those data centers will help power IBM's services arm as the world increasingly and gradually turns to cloud computing. But Hackett said IBM would not be getting into the IT Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) business, much like Amazon Web Services, as its bread is not buttered in just provisioning capacity.
"They've made a ton of money on things being complicated," he said.