IBM's New Cloud Computing CTO Now Central Player in a Huge Trend

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-02-10
 
 
 

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Now that IBM has designated space, capital and personnel for its new Blue Cloud computing division, the newly appointed CTO of that group suddenly finds himself a central player in the hottest current IT trend in the world -- and at the world's largest IT company, no less.

Welcome to the wild and woolly -- and very unstandardized -- world of enterprise clouds, Kristof Kloeckner.

Dr. Kloeckner, formerly vice president of strategy and technology for IBM's Software Group, was appointed to his present position at the end of 2008. Previously he had been vice president of development for Tivoli.

Before that, Kloeckner held executive positions in strategy, architecture and development in the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom -- including serving as director of the Hursley Laboratory in the United Kingdom. He joined IBM in 1984 as a development engineer in the Boeblingen Development Laboratory in Germany.

Kloeckner now has responsibility for the strategic direction of the Blue Cloud Group, including open standards and software, advanced development and incubation of technology. He will work under Erich Clementi, IBM's new cloud guru, who reports directly to CEO Sam Palmisano.

"If you look at the needs of enterprise to drive costs down and free up resources for new work, for innovation and for flexibly addressing new opportunities, you really have to do something about your infrastructure, and about how you're going to receive your services," Kloeckner told eWEEK Feb. 9 in one of his first interviews since settling into his new position.

"The Juniper partnership [for handling the network connectivity for much of IBM's future cloud computing packages] is the nucleaus of something potentially very big, because in the future you will see privately owned clouds, we'll see public owned clouds, and combinations of both," Kloeckner said.

On Feb. 9 at IBM's south San Jose research and development facility, analysts and members of the press corps were shown a live demonstration of how computing power can be provisioned and transferred from one cloud to another, anywhere in the world -- and from a public cloud systems to a private (inside the firewall) cloud -- by a mere drag-and-drop user interface.

We're talking about the convergence of a huge amount of IT complexity -- thousands of servers, switches, and other hardware and sofware components in IBM cloud data centers in locations from San Jose to Beijing to Bangalore to Sao Paolo to Dublin -- all being controlled by one person somewhere else in the world with the right training and security clearances.

Juniper installed this network capability into IBM's cloud labs and will continue to be a key supplier in the future.

IBM's cloud infrastructure as it now stands uses the open-source Xen hypervisor -- not the branded version from Citrix -- to handle the virtualization layer.

"This is the first time this kind of demonstration [connecting and provisioning public and private clouds] has ever been made," said Dennis Quan, IBM's director of autonomic and cloud computing solutions.

Cloud: A convergence of technical and business trends

What is happening in cloud computing is a convergence of technical and business trends, Kloeckner said.

"Back in 2001, 2002, Willy Chiu [now IBM vice president of High Performance On Demand Solutions] and I built what you would now call a cloud. We had built for [Charles] Schwab a way to utilize their underutilized server farms," Kloeckner said. "It was designed for use at off-peak times, for additional highly parallelized workloads.

"We had the patent at that time, but what we didn't have was the virtualization technology, we didn't have the degree of automation and discovery technology that we have [now] in Tivoli, and -- here's another important thing -- what we used to parallelize the workload was a research prototype that had been developed within our own walls, but had no ecosystem, didn't follow any standards, because standards didn't exist. So it was a one-off."

Things have come a long, long way since then.

"What we are seeing now is virtualization, standardization and, most importantly, service orientation, coming together," Kloeckner said.

It will be Kloeckner's job going forward to help pick and choose from the vast IBM product and services catalog as to what sorts of technologies will be used in various implementations, including deployments in financial services, Web 2.0 data centers, government, military, health services, and scientific research projects.

"Virtualization [of the infrastructure] only gets you so far. You really need to do virtualized services. If the virtualization and automation of infrastructure can create economic drivers, create an incentive for simplifying more workloads, then we have something very interesting and transformative happening," Kloeckner said.

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