I see IBM as the sleeping giant of cloud service providers. Large enterprises don't take Amazon seriously, and they'll put up with Salesforce if they have to, but IBM is a different story. Anything you pay that much for has got to be beyond reproach.
Last week at the IBM Impact show in Las Vegas, I spoke with Steve Mills, IBM's head of software, and Walter Falk, IBM business development executive for cloud computing, about IBM's plans for cloud services. The news of the week was that the company had acquired Cast Iron Systems, makers of a cloud integration appliance primarily designed to help customers integrate SaaS apps with their local enterprise applications. IBM also opened up a big cloud research facility in Singapore and unveiled a new cloud certification program.
[ David Linthicum, InfoWorld's cloud computing blogger, has a unique perspetive on IBM's acquisition of Cast Iron Systems. | Get the no-nonsense advice you need to take advantage of cloud computing in InfoWorld editors' 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report. ]
But for me the big story is that launch time is approaching for IBM Smart Business Development and Test on the IBM Cloud, as it is awkwardly named. As Walter Falk told me, "It's all being built out of the Raleigh data center for the North American market. We are very close to going live. We are right now in beta and we have more than a 100 customers and partners testing it out. It's relatively quiet, I would say, because we really want to build this rock solid."
"Quiet" is the operative word to describe IBM's approach to cloud services. Most people don't know, for example, that IBM offers hosted desktop virtualization in the form of Smart Business Desktop on the IBM Cloud. Why the low-key approach? Well, for one thing, IBM has provided the infrastructure for many SaaS players over the years and probably does not want to be seen as competing with customers. For another, I think IBM wants to be very, very certain its cloud services are seen as enterprise-class.
When I asked Steve Mills about that, he was emphatic: "Yes, we have to provide guarantees. We have to do that. That's what we're expected to do." He is equally insistent that IBM believes in the hybrid cloud model, where customers' private cloud services integrate with the public cloud. No company of any size is going to deep-six the data center and shove everything on the public cloud.