IBM is investing $360 million to build a new cloud computing center in North Carolina that promises to deliver cloud services and infrastructure to a new range of customers.
The Aug. 1 announcement comes on the same day that IBM plans to officially open a cloud computing facility in Tokyo that will offer cloud services to businesses, universities and government institutions in Japan. The proposed center in North Carolina, which will be built at IBM's Research Triangle Park facility near Raleigh, will officially open in the fourth quarter of 2009.
The $360 million IBM investment capped an interesting few days in the emerging cloud computing race. Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Yahoo, along with group of academic institutions, announced a partnership July 29 that will create six research centers to experiment with the types of hardware, software and data center management needed to create cloud infrastructures.
While no one model or vendor dominates cloud computing, the technology does hold the promise of making computing more streamlined and efficient by allowing a business or university to offload some or all of its IT infrastructure and draw on applications and computing power delivered through the Internet. Many experts, however, believe that most commercially viable cloud models are five to 10 years away from becoming a reality.
To date, it has been the Web 2.0 companies, such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon.com, that have experimented the most with the cloud model. But more traditional companies such as HP and IBM have also begun exploring the possibilities of the cloud.
Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said he believes that IBM has several distinct advantages since it has already built a number of cloud computing facilities-the one in North Carolina will be IBM's ninth-and has a legacy of building and managing large-scale data centers. King also cited IBM's early support for open-source software in the data center, an essential element of most cloud models, and its recently released iDataPlex array, a specialized x86 server array designed for cloud facilities.
"A few companies such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon are already running these facilities on their own and I think ... IBM is trying to target those businesses that are ahead of the curve and those that see commercial opportunities in the Web 2.0 and virtual world environments that need this kind of hardware and software," King said.
The 60,000-square foot facility in North Carolina will use IBM hardware, including x86- and Power-based servers along with IBM's System z mainframe and a host of other IBM hardware, storage products and management software.
As part of its Big Green initiative, IBM will recycle material from the existing facility to create the new cloud center and will use virtualization technology to run more applications on each server and reduce the amount of electricity needed.
Rich Lechner, vice president of Cloud Computing Strategy for IBM, called the new North Carolina facility an evolutionary step for IBM's cloud initiative. He said the center will draw on technology that has worked at the company's other facilities as well as the emerging technology that IBM and Google have been developing in their own experimental facility.
Such technology, Lechner said, should allow IBM to create a cloud model that adjusts over time to the needs of the customer.
"It's going to be highly virtualized in all dimensions from the servers to the storage to the network and even application virtualization," Lechner said.
"It's green by design, so the building has a high degree of recyclable materials and it is very energy efficient," Lechner added. "From a workload perspective, this facility will show IBM using the cloud computing model and the service delivery model to deliver services in a much more scalable and economic fashion to our outsource clients."