IBM opens cloud computing center in Dublin

Big Blue's Dublin cloud computing facility is the first one to be built in Europe

IBM has opened a new datacenter in Dublin aimed at letting businesses use its computing power and applications for collaborative projects such as software and IT services development.

The Dublin facility is the first one to be built in Europe, and will also serve the Middle East and Africa. IBM is labeling the facility a "cloud computing center," in that companies can access applications that are hosted on IBM's hardware.

[ Exactly what is the cloud? InfoWorld blogger Bill Snyder describes what the nebulous term "cloud computing" really means. ]

Some of those applications have features that are also seen on Web 2.0 sites. The hosted applications will include Lotus Connections, IBM's social software that lets employees create blogs and wikis, tag Web sites, and make comments on other people's ideas, said Willy Chiu, vice president of high-performance on-demand solutions for IBM's Software Group.

When wrapped together, IBM's software also lets companies test new services and applications with their customers. Other IBM products involved are its WebSphere integration and application infrastructure software and its Tivoli provisioning software, Chiu said. IBM will additionally offer experts who can advise companies on how to set up their own enterprise datacenters.

Pricing information has not been released, Chiu said.

IBM launched a similar program last September called Innovation Factory in partnership with the Shanghai Research Institute of China Telecom Corporate (STTRI). The project focuses on developing communication services for the Chinese market. In that instance, IBM installed its software in STTRI's datacenter, Chiu said.

IBM has signed up Sogeti, an IT services division of Capgemini Group, to use the Dublin center, Chiu said. "They wanted to pilot the Idea Factory to accelerate innovation," Chiu said.

Next month, Sogeti will start a six-month trial of IBM's collaboration technologies, said Michiel Boreel, Sogeti's chief technology officer. The trial will start with a three-day session involving 18,000 employees in 14 countries. Employees will submit ideas to make the company's IT services offerings better.

During the second phase, the best of those ideas will then be put into IBM's collaboration software, Boreel said. The plan is to move away from tools such as e-mail, which is good for exchanging information, but "lousy" for collaboration, he said.

Wikis, a format where people can work on the same document at the same time, are much better, Boreel said. After six months, Sogeti will decide whether IBM's hosted collaboration platform is worth using permanently, he said.

"I expect people are going to use these kinds of collaboration tools more intensively," Boreel said, adding that Sogeti could eventually offer the same kind of service to its customers.