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IBM's Cloud Computing Starts With Developers

IBM tomorrow plans to announce a set of cloud computing products and services designed to help organizations develop software more efficiently.

While many businesses rely heavily on their own developers to create and refine new capabilities, their supporting infrastructure is inefficient.

"Developers are driving so much business value that the average enterprise devotes 30 to 50 percent of its entire technology infrastructure to development and test, but typically up to 90 percent of it remains idle," IBM (NYSE: IBM) said in a statement.

To IBM, the cloud provides the answer, delivering an elastic infrastructure that can meet bursts of demand from developers.

"If you go after the low hanging fruit first, you will reap almost instant benefits," Kristof Kloeckner, IBM Cloud Computing CTO, told InternetNews.com. "Our internal innovation cloud has a payback of less than three months. With our clients we have seen payback in half a year or three-quarters of a year."

"That's significant because I hear many clients say they would like to do [cloud computing] but that it needs to pay for itself in the budget period," he added. "If you choose the right project, you can make it pay for itself in the budget period."

The news comes as more companies are entering the cloud computing arena. Verizon Business and Salesforce both recently announced new cloud products.

One company recently claimed to have deployed the largest enterprise cloud, and several others announced sophisticated solutions to connect traditional IT environments to the cloud.

For its part, IBM is announcing a handful of products. The IBM Smart Business Test Cloud is a private cloud development environment. The Smart Business Development and Test on the IBM Cloud product is hosted by IBM and adds IBM's Rational software development environment to the Smart Business Test Cloud.

IBM's hosted products are in preview, a limited beta open to those who attended IBM's recent Rational Software Conference 2009, where the beta services were first demonstrated.

"Our development is focused on the private cloud first because that what our clients are telling us to focus on," Kloeckner said.

The Smart Business products include a virtual desktop offering designed to dramatically reduce power use by up to 73 percent compared to traditional desktops, and to enable companies to use their legacy hardware for a longer period of time.

"With IBM Smart Business Virtual Desktop, more than 10,000 students in Pike County are able to easily and quickly access new courseware through private cloud desktops, and the school system is saving on expenses related to hardware updates, technology support staff and power usage," said Maritta Horne, CIO of Pike County School District in Eastern Kentucky, in a statement.

Finally, IBM CloudBurst is a private cloud in a box (actually, it comes in several boxes). It is a family of pre-integrated hardware, storage, virtualization, and networking capabilities that come with a built-in management system.

[cob:Special_Report]IBM is known for setting consulting-style goals for its software, and this has always been the plan for cloud computing as well. For CloudBurst, IBM is targeting a 50 percent reduction in software development labor costs and a 30 percent reduction in software defects. In addition, cloud and virtualization technologies reduce the provisioning time of sandboxes from days or weeks to minutes.

Pricing for the Smart Business cloud products was not disclosed.

IBM's CloudBurst private cloud turnkey environment starts at $207,387 in up-front costs, with financing available so that qualifying enterprises can pay less than $6,000 per month for the product, the company said in a statement.

CloudBurst includes a cloud computing environment management system based on IBM's Tivoli product. Kloeckner said that competitors such as HP were moving in on cloud management but argued that IBM has invested more in cloud computing management than its competitors.

"Until recently, cloud computing has been largely relegated to the area of Internet Search with mostly noncritical, Web-based content emerging in 'cloud' environments," IBM said in a statement. "But several years ago, IBM saw the potential for enterprise workloads to be delivered in the cloud model -- from core business and IT processes -- like e-mail, HR, business analytics and data storage -- operating in the cloud in a secure, private or public structure -- backed by the proper services support."

"Beginning June 16, the door opens on that era ... first with software development and desktop workloads available and subsequently an expansion of the business services menu to include other core components of IT," the company said.

Kloeckner said that IBM will add a wide variety of features and functions to its cloud computing offering. New services on the road map include business process modeling which "straddles the divide between IT-oriented business and business-oriented IT" as well as collaboration.

IBM will also add business analytics to cloud computing.

Kloeckner noted that the applications delivered so far on IBM's cloud computing platform apply to any business, but that will change. "We are starting a dialog with many clients to see what industry-specific applications they are looking for on the cloud computing platform," he said.

Update adds comments from Kloeckner.