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Tue, Jun 16, 2009 - Page 10 News List

IBM to help its corporate customers into a cloud


In 2000, the Linux operating system was a hot technology, but it had not spread much beyond scientists, researchers and computer programmers. Then IBM declared that it would back Linux with investment, research and marketing, and the technology moved swiftly into the corporate mainstream.

The same thing happened with the personal computer in the early 1980s, when IBM endorsed that upstart technology and entered the market.

Starting this week, IBM is returning to the same playbook, introducing some initial products and services and a roadmap for its stable of corporate and government customers to comfortably embrace cloud computing.

Cloud computing — in which vast stores of information and processing resources can be tapped from afar, over the Internet, using a personal computer, cellphone or other device — holds great promise in the corporate market. The cloud model, analysts say, has the potential to cut the costs, complexity and headaches of technology for companies and government agencies.

Already, Amazon.com, Google and Salesforce.com, among others, offer cloud-based Web services to companies, including e-mail, computer storage and customer management software. But many big companies and government agencies have been reluctant to get on board because of traditional corporate-computing concerns like the security of data, reliability of service and regulatory compliance.

“IBM knows how to do all of those things,” said Frank Gens, chief analyst for IDC, a technology research firm. “Its strategy is all about making cloud computing safe for enterprise customers.”

Even if IBM succeeds in its bid to make cloud computing more palatable for big corporations, there is no guarantee that it will be the main beneficiary of the trend. After IBM helped create the PC industry, lower-cost competitors ended up dominating the business.

In the cloud market, IBM plans to take a tailored approach. The hardware and software in its cloud offerings will be meant for specific computing chores. Just as Google runs a computing cloud optimized for Internet search, IBM will make bespoke clouds for computing workloads in business.

Its early cloud entries, scheduled to be announced yesterday, follow that model. One set of offerings is focused on streamlining the technology used by corporate software developers and testers, which can consume 30 percent or more of a company’s technology resources.

The second set is virtual desktop services, in which personal computer software, either from Microsoft or open-source alternatives, is run on remote servers and piped to simple desktop machines equipped with screens and keyboards. IBM found in tests with clients that such virtual PCs, with little desktop processing or storage, can use 70 percent less power than conventional PCs and reduce technical support costs by up to 40 percent.

Both the software development and desktop services are being offered as an integrated bundle of hardware and software for a cloud running inside a corporate or government data center, or as a cloud service hosted in an IBM data center.

Other offerings are planned, IBM executives said, including clouds fine-tuned for data storage, and clouds for business analytics, which is software that analyzes data for patterns of customer behavior, market trends and other potentially valuable information.

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