IBM Offers Deployment Platform For Serious Cloud Computing

Saying businesses are ready to move from experimenting with cloud computing to full-scale production, IBM Thursday unveiled what it calls IBM SmartCloud, a new cloud service delivery platform of hardware, software and services for deploying private, public and hybrid cloud systems.

The SmartCloud platform is likely to bring IBM into more direct competition with Rackspace, Amazon Web Services and other cloud computing service providers.

The new offering will provide a single platform that customers can provision with middleware and applications for running workloads in the cloud across multiple systems or hypervisors, IBM said.

IBM has offered a cloud-based commercial software development and test service for partners and customers since March 2010. But the new SmartCloud Enterprise and Enterprise + offerings pull all of IBM's cloud service offerings under one umbrella and make it available for customers who are ready to move their production IT systems to the cloud.

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"We think we're at an inflection point," said Mike Hill, IBM vice president of strategic initiatives, speaking in an interview about customers' readiness to move to full-scale cloud deployments. "We're telling the world we're ready for production."

IBM unveiled SmartCloud at an event in San Francisco Thursday hosted by Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive, IBM software & systems.

IBM has set itself the goal of generating $7 billion in cloud computing-related sales by 2015. Hill said $3 billion of that would be incremental sales growth in new areas such as "smarter commerce." Market researcher IDC has forecast that worldwide spending on cloud computing hardware and software will reach $45 billion by 2013.

NEXT: What The SmartCloud Has To Offer

The SmartCloud platform will allow customers to tailor key aspects of a public, private or hybrid cloud system to meet their workload requirements, IBM said. Businesses and organizations can define the parameters of their cloud system around five dimensions: security and isolation, system availability and performance, technology platforms, management support and deployment, and payment and billing methods.

Hill described the SmartCloud Enterprise, available now, as a "major update" to the public cloud test and development platform the company has offered for nearly a year. SmartCloud Enterprise emphasizes development and deployment for new applications running on Linux and Windows, offering virtual and some physical levels of security and 99.5 percent availability.

IBM describes Enterprise +, slated for availability in the second half of this year, as more robust and better suited for migration of "traditional and higher availability applications" because of its additional managed production services and 99.9 percent availability. Enterprise + runs on Linux, Windows and AIX, and offers security with "multiple levels of isolation," IBM said.

SmartCloud Enterprise operates on a "bring your own/pay as you go/free developer use" software licensing model while IBM provides operating systems and tool licenses under Enterprise +. And pricing is hourly usage-based for the Enterprise platform while Enterprise + pricing is based on monthly usage and fixed contracts.

Cutomers can deploy their Lotus Domino applications on SmartCloud Enterprise via the Lotus Domino Utility Server for LotusLive, including e-mail, social business and third-party applications, IBM said. Starting in the third quarter IBM will also offer its SAP Managed Application Services through SmartCloud.