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Big Blue's Bluehouse in the Cloud

IBM launches a cloud-computing initiative in an effort to evolve its software-delivery model into a mix of on-premises and online apps.

IBM Corp. is among the major players launching ambitious cloud-computing initiatives; the company joins the ranks of Amazon.com Inc., Google Inc. and Microsoft.

Big Blue last month said it's tapping its Lotus, Rational and Tivoli divisions for a company-wide effort to evolve IBM's traditional software-delivery model into a mix of on-premises and on-line applications.

Demand for cloud services is being fueled by the growing amount of data created by enterprises, which requires a retooling of customers' infrastructures, says Willy Chiu, vice president in IBM's High-Performance On-Demand Solutions group. "We'll soon be maxed out in terms of the ability to support the kinds of rich information access end users are expecting," Chiu says. "When you have your data residing in the cloud, it's dynamically provisioned, easy to get to, elastic and expandable."

In addition to Microsoft's launch of the Windows Azure platform, IBM's entry into this space comes as companies like Amazon and Salesforce.com Inc. are creating momentum with their respective cloud services. Amazon just announced it's opening its EC2 to support Windows Server.

"Now that Amazon has proved the viability of the market as a first mover, the fast followers are taking the plunge," says Forrester Research Inc. analyst Jeffrey Hammond.

IBM can help legitimize cloud computing in large enterprises, Hammond adds. "But it's also possible that they'll get drowned out in the market by their emerging competition, which is also large and strategically committed to winning market share."

Social-Networking Services
Among the new cloud services unveiled is a project called "Bluehouse," a social-networking and online-collaboration service designed specifically for businesspeople. Bluehouse-currently available for beta testing-comprises a suite of hosted technologies accessed through a browser that supports document and contact sharing, joint project activities, online meetings and the development of social-networking communities in the cloud. The Bluehouse beta is available now at http://bluehouse.lotus.com.

IBM's new cloud-computing package also includes Web conferencing services. The new Lotus Sametime Unyte is designed to support conferencing, document sharing, presentations and even the sharing of applications, all through a Web connection. IBM plans to integrate Sametime Unyte with Lotus Notes and Lotus Sametime, the company says, "to allow people working in e-mail or instant messaging to join Web conferences with a single click of a button."

Quote from Willy Chiu, vice president in IBM's High-Performance On-Demand Solutions group

The new cloud services include a Web-content-scanning app, the IBM Rational Policy Tester OnDemand. From IBM Rational, there's AppScan OnDemand, which scans Web apps for security bugs. The Telelogic Focal Point application is designed to provide product management teams with the ability to collect, analyze and prioritize product features in line with broader organizational goals. And the new Remote Data Protection service aims to reduce the risk associated with information protection. These services are the fruit of IBM's acquisition of Arsenal Digital Solutions.

Trendsetting
The collaboration and social-networking piece of the IBM offering underscores a growing trend around delivering collaboration in this form. Social-networking environments are easily accessible for organizations looking to try out team-based collaboration tools, says Angela Ashenden, an analyst at Macehiter Ward-Dutton Ltd. "It's also currently, though not necessarily wisely, seen as a standalone application that doesn't need to be part of the broader software architecture [that's] constrained by centralized security and policy," Ashenden says.

With this initiative, IBM is reaching out to ISVs with cloud-services resources. Among them: a series of white papers; on-line demos; and downloadable code to help developers address common issues associated with designing and building cloud-enabled services. IBM is also releasing technical blueprints on its developerWorks Web site.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on ADTmag.com, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at john@watersworks.com.


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