The company also unveiled a cloud version of its Rational software delivery lifecycle application Tuesday and a new online cloud computing resource center on the IBM DeveloperWorks site.
While IBM will make the services directly available to its customers, once they become generally available in the U.S. and Canada early in the second quarter, channel partners also will have the opportunity to provide value-added services around the new offerings.
"This is really the start of IBM building out an ecosystem around the cloud and our partners," said Drew Clark, director of strategy, IBM Venture Capital Group. "It's aimed at partners in that it's a chance for them to develop their own services on top of the cloud."
Until now IBM has offered an online software test environment that some customers also used for development. But the new Smart Business Development & Test on the IBM Cloud is the company's first real commercial cloud development product, Clark said.
The Collaboration Software Initiative, an IBM development partner, has already leveraged the service to help the U.S. Department of Education develop an online community of teachers, administrators, charitable foundations and educational experts. In the past CSI would use IT infrastructure hosted by a third-party provider for its development efforts, but that required three to six weeks to set up and CSI had to accurately forecast its IT requirements in advance, said CTO Evan Bauer.
Bauer said the IBM service allowed CSI to adjust the amount of IT resources it needed in just minutes during different stages of the development project. "It really let us be agile," he said, adding that the environment runs behind secure firewalls on load-balanced servers in "well-managed data centers."
Other IBM partners among the service's early users are Aviarc, Corent, Kaazo, Navajo Systems, RightScale, Silanis and Wavemaker.
The average business devotes as much as 50 percent of its IT resources to development and test efforts, Clark said. "But 90 percent of that remains underutilized most of the time." By utilizing cloud services like those being offered by IBM, IT infrastructure needs are reduced and IT labor costs can be cut by 50 percent, according to the vendor.
IBM is delivering the services in three configurations: IBM Smart Business Development & Test Cloud, a private cloud service built and managed by IBM that runs behind a customer's firewall; IBM Smart Business Development & Test on the IBM Cloud, running on IBM's secure cloud platform; and IBM CloudBurst for Development & Test, a pre-integrated set of hardware, storage, networking and virtualization technologies that customers use to deploy an internal/private cloud environment.
The systems are based on Java, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise.
Rational Software Delivery Services for Cloud Computing v1.0 is a collection of Rational tools that IBM said help customers leverage the cloud to develop, test and deploy applications. The new cloud computing resource center provides a single entry point for beta and production cloud environments for the 8 million registered developers on IBM's DeveloperWorks portal.