IBM Has Reasons for Being Careful with the Cloud

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-04-29 Print this article Print


Despite all the theorizing about computing services shifting into the cloud, Quan said, "While some enterprise customers want to access compute resources outside of their firewalls, many insurance companies or financial service companies actually want to keep control over their data centers."

What these companies are doing is looking at Google's, Facebook's and MySpace's data centers and wondering how they can get that scalability within their own data centers. Blue Cloud and the iDataPlex aim to offer that.

By contrast, products and services from Google, Yahoo and are natively in the cloud as entirely hosted solutions. They use a mishmash of commodity boxes designed to offer impressive scaling and 24/7 uptime.

Pund-IT analyst Charles King said while IBM already has substantial hosted services offerings, he doesn't see the company "playing in the cloud-hosting place."

IBM is picking its spots in the industry, for good reason. Its core business segments are servers, software and global services. If the company took its entire software group and hosted it in the cloud for customers-a la Google or Yahoo-it would begin to eradicate its server and global services businesses.

Who would buy an IBM server if IBM is hosting its own software for customers to subscribe to? Who would pay for the global services unit, famed for offering support staffs to take over corporate data centers?

One could argue that IBM could use its surplus of servers and services personnel to support IBM's software and internal machines, similar to the way Google puts 100 or so people up in its global data centers to run and maintain them. But the company would still have to lay off a lot of people and jettison some of the weaker products.

It could also be argued that IBM's server and services business hampers its ability to play significantly in the cloud, but, on the other hand, IBM's understanding in those data center disciplines positions it to be a leader in the space, stronger than Microsoft or even Google.

"They're proceeding in the way they traditionally proceed, which is, take a look at the market, see where some discreet commercial opportunities are and then ask if there is anything that they can bring to the party that no one else has done," King said.

IBM is proceeding into the cloud, as it has every new business opportunity, with caution, and defining its own cloud strategy, not letting the media hype shape it. Ultimately, new opportunities will open up for the company as it goes further down the cloud rabbit hole.

Who can predict what those might be?


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