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IBM & Cloud Computing: Getting Ready for the Zettabyte Age

It's not what you can do for the cloud, but what the cloud can do for you

Well IBM has gone and done it, they've announced a cloud offering yet again. Actually what's interesting about this go, is not that they're getting into the cloud business (again) but instead this time they're serious about it. And like it or not, they're approach actually does kind of make sense for, assuming you're within their target demographic (the large enterprise looking to save a few bucks).

My summary of the "Big Blue Cloud" is as follows: It's not what you can do for the cloud, but what the cloud can do for you. Or simply, it's about the application, duh?

In a statement earlier today in the New York Times, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano said, “The information technology infrastructure is under stress --- and the data flood is just accelerating.”

Palmisano isn't alone in this thinking, earlier this week Cisco Systems, the mobile networking giant, released a report suggesting that global Internet traffic is growing exponentially. Scientific American said that Cisco needed a newer term -- zettabyte, or one trillion gigabytes -- to measure both the amount of uploading and downloading traffic on the Web and the bandwidth required to accommodate it. At the heart of IBM's cloud announcement is this forth coming growth in internet usage and the battle to control the flow of information in this new zettabyte age.

More to the point, the Cisco report has a lot of interesting statistics, including the prediction that the Web will nearly quadruple in size over the next four years. Cisco claims that, by 2013, what amounts to 10 billion DVDs will cross the Internet each month. Or to put it another way, it will take over a million years to watch just one month's worth of Web video traffic. The findings point to "consumer hyperactivity" -- that with Web-enabled phones and mobile devices, more powerful computers, and multitasking, growth will only increase. For such a surge in volume, networks must be able to accommodate the growth. Whether the private or public clouds for many companies cloud computing may help solve this problem.

One of IBM customers at the Interior Department’s National Business Center, a service center that handles payroll, human relations, financial reporting, contracting services and other computing tasks for dozens of federal agencies spelt out the opportunity. “For us, like other data centers, the volume of data continues to explode,” Douglas J. Bourgeois said. “We want to solve some of those problems with cloud computing, so we don’t have to build another $20 million data center.

Although not exactly sexy, IBM is hitting at the heart of the opportunity for big businesses looking at getting into cloud computing. First and foremost they're looking to address the issue of security and trust, secondly cost and thirdly massive exponential growth in network / internet based capacity. Turns out a lot of businesses aren't very comfortable handing over their data center and application management infrastructure to some up-start company or bookseller. The old saying "No manager ever got fired to choosing IBM" is as strong as ever. This statement is especially true of cloud computing. (And IBM knows it)

Here are the highlights of IBM’s announcement:

  • Smart Business Test Cloud — A private cloud behind the client’s firewall. Basically IBM is offering to install "private clouds" for companies in-house, behind their firewalls built on a suit of existing IBM software with some IBM magic on top.
  • Smart Business Development & Test on the IBM Cloud, a bundle of development and test tools that can be used on IBM's cloud -- a network running on 13 datacenters located around the globe.
  • IBM CloudBurst — 42-unit server cabinet that comes preloaded with hardware, storage, virtualization, networking and service management software. Think of this as managed outsourced private cloud housed in an IBM data center.

I will say there are some glaring holes in IBM newly reinvented cloud offering. One in particular is IBM seems to have put together a combination of several existing products, rather then re-imagining the data center, they seem to have found a new way to market what they already had, which I'm not saying is bad, just nothing new. This is in direct contrast to IBM's rivals such as Amazon Web Services, Google and even Microsoft who have managed to create a totally new and integrated stack of cloud components. IBM's hodgepodge approach may be indicative of future acquisitions they may need to make to fully realise there cloud ambitions. (IBM Rightscale or IBM SOASTA CloudTest anyone?) Regardless, this latest move firmly places IBM in the center of the hottest land grab in IT.

More Stories By Reuven Cohen

An instigator, part time provocateur, bootstrapper, amateur cloud lexicographer, and purveyor of random thoughts, 140 characters at a time.

Reuven is an early innovator in the cloud computing space as the founder of Enomaly in 2004 (Acquired by Virtustream in February 2012). Enomaly was among the first to develop a self service infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platform (ECP) circa 2005. As well as SpotCloud (2011) the first commodity style cloud computing Spot Market.

Reuven is also the co-creator of CloudCamp (100+ Cities around the Globe) CloudCamp is an unconference where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies exchange ideas and is the largest of the ‘barcamp’ style of events.