IBM Preps for Cloud Computing War vs. Google, Microsoft in 2010

IBM will ramp up its cloud computing efforts in the messaging and collaboration market in 2010, focusing on extending the security of on-premises solutions to its LotusLive SAAS offerings. From January through October, IBM launched LotusLive Engage, a broad social networking and collaboration platform; LotusLive Connections, a SAAS version of its social networking suite; and its LotusLive iNotes hosted mail solution. IBM will have more to say on its future cloud computing direction in January at Lotusphere 2010.

Customers and industry watchers can expect IBM to accelerate its cloud computing efforts into 2010 and beyond, investing at a rate that is commensurate to a $120 billion cloud computing market, an IBM executive told eWEEK.

"Cloud computing" is a broad term that encompasses many things in the IT sector, but it's most commonly understood as computing resources that a provider hosts and provisions to customers over an Internet connection. IBM in 2009 rolled out several cloud-oriented initiative covering servers and storage.

However, collaboration is the major battle front for the cloud. Google got things rolling in February 2007 by rolling out a premier edition of its Google Apps hosted collaboration software. IBM's Lotus group pointed in this direction at Lotusphere 2008 with talk of Bluehouse, a SAAS (software-as-a-service) initiative for SMBs.

IBM first began treating cloud computing as a major platform opportunity in its Lotus collaboration software group at Lotusphere 2009, when the company renamed Bluehouse LotusLive.

From January through October, IBM launched LotusLive Engage, a broad social networking and collaboration platform; LotusLive Connections, a SAAS version of its social networking suite; and LotusLive iNotes, a hosted e-mail platform that boasts 18 million seats, many of which came with the platform when IBM acquired Outblaze.

Taken together, these tools make IBM a viable enterprise collaboration provider. While Google, Microsoft and others offer similar SAAS collaboration suites, IBM also offers hosted social networking tools, something that Google and Microsoft solutions lack.

While IBM's size has often slowed its entrance to new markets, the company's adoption of the cloud is well-timed, Sean Poulley, vice president of online collaboration for Lotus Software, told eWEEK.

Looking forward, Poulley said IBM will ramp up its investments in cloud computing in 2010 and beyond, including acquisitions, new research and development, and product delivery. Moreover, much like Microsoft's software-plus-services strategy of mixing SAAS with on-premises solutions, IBM also believes in a hybrid world.

"There are trillions of dollars in invested capital in applications and infrastructure, and companies aren't going to throw all of that stuff away," Poulley said. "One of the big things that's going to happen in the next year is this whole idea of hybrid, on-premises and cloud integration. I think of it in terms of extending the enterprise perimeter to the cloud."

In 2010, IBM will use the cloud to create simple business processes across company firewalls. Though Poulley declined to provide specific details about this effort, he said people will hear more beginning one month from today at IBM's Lotusphere 2010. "That is going to unlock the enterprise's hesitancy to move to the cloud at a much greater pace."

The hybrid SAAS meets on-premises model is one way IBM and Microsoft differ from Google, which is banking on a vastly improved HTML5 markup language to push collaboration to a Web-only world. Don Dodge, one of the many former Microsoft employees who joined Google, claims Google Apps will take off in 2010.

To wit, 2010 is shaping up to be quite the cloud arms race between not only Google, IBM and Microsoft, but also newcomers such as Cisco Systems and smaller startups such as Zoho.