IBM drops $1.2B to significantly expand its global cloud footprint

Following a huge investment in SoftLayer, IBM plans to build 15 new cloud-based data center facilities worldwide

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This announcement also puts to rest some questions about IBM's SmartCloud initiative. IBM confirmed that it plans to establish SoftLayer as the default platform or foundation for all of the company's cloud infrastructures going forward; each of the new data center facilities being constructed will be based on SoftLayer.

IBM said the SoftLayer infrastructure will provide a scalable, secure base for the global delivery of cloud services spanning the company's extensive middleware and SaaS solutions and went on to comment:

SoftLayer's flexibility and global network will also facilitate faster development, deployment and delivery of mobile, analytic, social solutions as clients adopt cloud as a delivery platform for IT operations and manage their business.

Businesses around the globe are increasing their use of cloud computing and data storage services thanks to Opex and Capex savings, as well as increased flexibility. According to some estimates, the global cloud market is set to grow to $200 billion by 2020. Based on that growth, IBM said it hopes to generate $7 billion in cloud revenue in 2015 alone.

As an early entrant into the public cloud market, Amazon seems to have a head start on much of the competition. However, plenty of meat is left on the bone, and a host of enterprise companies are still looking for the right cloud opportunity. IBM appears to be focusing its efforts on a clearly differentiated offering to go after its own segment of the market.

It's also important to note that IBM is not the only public cloud vendor announcing infrastructure expansion plans. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have each expressed their own data center build-out strategies. However, IBM's 15 new data centers certainly dwarf anything announced by the others. When IBM's expansion is complete, it should also prove to be a much more distributed footprint than its competitors.

Does IBM have it right? If so, once the data center expansion is completed, will the demand be there to match the capacity?

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