IBM plans to deliver on-demand computing capacity to customers from data center resources built up in the cloud.
The Armonk, N.Y., company is announcing Nov. 15 a new initiative called "Blue Cloud," which marks the first time IBM will deliver a commercial cloud computing offering. This first offering will use a combination of hardware and software designed to deliver more computing power from the data center based on customer demand.
The first of these offerings, which builds on the collaborative efforts IBM and Google announced in October for universities and other academic institutions, will come to the market in the first half of 2008. It will use IBM BladeCenter servers, a Linux operating system, Xen-based virtualization and the companys own Tivoli management software.
Unlike more traditional grid or utility computing, which is used to help companies draw on additional compute power to run massive, internal workloads, cloud computing is geared toward addressing the computing power needed to support Web sites, such as social networking or e-commerce sites, during peak hours. Cloud computing then allows users to cut back on those resources during lulls in the day and redirect those resources elsewhere.
Dennis Quan, chief technology officer for IBMs High Performance on Demand Solutions division, said IBM will target any customers that want get more computing power from a data center, but especially those enterprises running Web 2.0 applications, such as social networking, blogs, search and open collaboration content.
For customers, the use of cloud computing helps them draw on more computing power during peaks times, but also allows them to better control power and cooling costs by reallocating resources during down times as well.
"IBM thinks the importance of cloud computing is that it will help address the fundamental problems of running a data center and being able to scale the resources of that data center in order to run the next generation of Internet applications," said Quan. "We really expect this type of computing model to flourish in the next two to three years, and this will help customers take maximum advantage of it."
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Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said cloud computing remains an emerging model of controlling resources in the data center, and top-tier vendors such as Dell and IBM are attempting to take their manufacturing expertise and convert that knowledge into building the systems needed for this type of approach to data center and resource management.
With a large partner network, its manufacturing capabilities and a pool of potential customers, King believes that IBM decided it was time to invest in cloud computing.
"Social network sites are a good model for this type of offering," King said. "Any type of business that has a strong online presence and a large group of customers can use cloud computing to keep up with the type of fluctuation in use these sites experience. A lot of social networking sites have a demand for this. Its also something for any business that does a lot of e-commerce and for financial management Web sites that have large demands during the day that then trail off at night."
The first offering under "Blue Cloud" will use an IBM BladeCenter chassis that uses a mix of the companys blades servers based on IBMs Power processors and x86 chips. At this point, IBM will not say whether it will use Intel or Advanced Micro Devices processors or a combination of the two. The software stack will use a Linux operating system, Xen-based virtualization technology, IBM Tivoli management software to monitor and allocate the resources of the virtual environment, and Apaches Hadoop project, an open-source implementation of Googles MapReduce.
The virtualization technology is a key to IBMs cloud computing, since its allows the environment to self-manage and self-heal itself, while providing an extra layer of security.
Later, IBM will offer cloud computing based on its line of System z mainframes and more standard rack-mounted servers. IBM has not yet set a specific price for the offerings, although Quan said the company has received some interest in cloud computing from customers, including various government agencies and financial services companies. IBM will also offer a way to help customers integrate cloud computing with existing infrastructure through SOA (service-oriented architecture)-based Web services.
"We are targeting any companies that have data centers where power and cooling costs are driving them to consider new styles of computing, and we believe that cloud computing is a more cost-effective way of addressing these issues," Quan said.
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