IBM's cloud initiative repackages its familiar offerings

But a Big Blue exec hints at a future "open" offering that would avoid vendor lock-in

Mixing together a mélange of services, software, and marketing, IBM's announcement this week of its Cloud Services Initiative is about putting an organizing construct around all of its cloud offerings, according to one IBM executive.

To that end, it does not appear that there is much new in the way of products or services in the initiative.

Mostly repackaging of IBM datacenter and Lotus technology
Bluehouse, the centerpiece of the initiative, is a Web-based tool for collaboration. However, while the name may be new, Bluehouse actually incorporates a great deal of Big Blue's existing products, such as IBM's Lotus SameTime collaborative and social networking environment. Bluehouse builds on the services currently offered in SameTime for instant messaging and unified communications. "Bluehouse adds document sharing, contact sharing, and community building all in a SaaS (software-as-a-service) model," said Dave Mitchell, director of strategy for cloud services at IBM.

[ Confused about what cloud computing really means? Find out in InfoWorld's definitive guide to cloud computing. And for more on Bluehouse, see "IBM bundles up cloud computing initiatives." ]

Along with Bluehouse, IBM also announced SameTime Unyte, a Web conferencing offering. Unyte is part of Bluehouse as well.

In addition to Bluehouse, the four-part initiative adds to IBM's SaaS platform offerings, whereby IBM hosts the delivery infrastructure for software vendors. What's new is not technological but marketing: IBM has broadened the definition of a partner, expanding it to mean any software vendor that uses two out of three products IBM delivers: middleware, hardware, and managed hosting. Partners are also the beneficiary of joint marketing efforts.

Services to integrate cloud components into an organization's business environment are also available for IBM customers.

The fourth component will provide a datacenter environment based on IBM's Cloud Computing Centers around the world. This will give customers remote access to computing power in an on-demand environment.

Looking past proprietary clouds
Although the Bluehouse effort appears to be something IBM has been doing for a considerable number of years through its datacenter services, Mitchell hinted at doing something more, resolving an issue that has recently been swirling around the use of cloud solutions. "We are working with our partners using SOA to develop open clouds as opposed to proprietary clouds as in the past."

This comes on the heels of recent statements by Richard Stallman, for example, founder of GNU and a well-respected industry watcher who was quoted in the British newspaper The Guardian as saying cloud computing is nothing more than a "marketing hype campaign" and a "trap which will lock users into proprietary systems."

The difference between what IBM is offering and others, says Mitchell, is that an open cloud environment will give users more interoperability and more connections to partners.

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