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IBM Unveils Cloud Certification, Consulting Plans

Only six weeks after a mixed offering ofon-premises and cloud computing applications to partners and affiliated independent software vendors (ISVs), IBM is aiming to move even more of its business into the cloud.

Big Blue today said it would will begin extending its highly lucrative consulting and technology services to the cloud, building on work in its earlier Blue Cloud project. Announced a year ago, Blue Cloud is a combination of software and hardware components designed to enable IBM's (NYSE: IBM) enterprise customers to experiment with the cloud computing model.

IBM today also unveiled a certification program covering the resiliency of cloud-based applications or services delivered by its partners and ISVs. Think of it as a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for the cloud from IBM.

The moves signal a new stage in IBM's embrace of cloud computing, which has emerged as something of a source of hope for a tech industry battered by the economic downturn and for enterprises looking to shave costs as demands on their infrastructure grow.

Increasingly, vendors are promoting cloud-based services as a way that enterprises can reduce the expense and complexity associated with hosting, deploying and maintaining their own services -- and the allure of the technology has drawn offerings from vendors as diverse as Dell, Amazon and most recently, Microsoft, through its plans around Windows Azure.

For IBM, its effort to build consulting and technical services around cloud computing draws heavily on lessons learned from its Blue Cloud initiative, Brian Reagan, the director of IBM's business continuity and resiliency services unit, told InternetNews.com.

The new consulting push will see IBM helping customers understand, plan and create their cloud computing initiatives. On the planning front, for example, it will offer an economic model for assessing the total costs of ownership for cloud computing. It will also provide the talent to help clients install, configure and secure cloud computing inside their own datacenters.

"In many cases, we'll reengineer existing datacenters around the best practices we bring to bear, so clients can take advantage of the cloud in the best way," Reagan said.

IBM's hub for its cloud computing infrastructure consists of two datacenters, one in Tokyo and the other being built in its Research Triangle Park facility in Raleigh, N.C.

Seal of approval

Meanwhile, through IBM's Resilient Cloud Validation program, businesses collaborating with Big Blue on benchmarking and design will be allowed to use the IBM-designed "Resilient Cloud" logo when marketing their services.

The idea is that by creating a certification program, IBM can help craft and enforce some standards around security and reliability in the rapidly growing world of cloud computing.

"You need standards to create interoperability among the elements and technologies in cloud computing," Reagan said. "And we'll identify a strategy for clients and help them implement, deploy and operate these cloud computing environments."

To help develop and push standards, IBM said it plans to partner with providers of virtualization, grid computing, services management and other related technologies, while also leveraging its own platforms, like the z Series mainframes, our BladeCenters, and the I Series platforms, Reagan said.

Orchestrating these technologies to provide continuity and resiliency will be critical, Reagan said. "If enterprises are truly going to adopt the cloud, they will want a similar level of assurance of security and resilience as in their datacenters," he added.

The "Resilient Cloud" logo program will become available in early 2009. It will be offered in conjunction with teams from the 155 IBM datacenters around the world offering everything from advisory services to fully managed cloud resilient infrastructures.

Other cloud computing vendors, however, felt that efforts in hammering out standards should be developed by consensus instead of being driven by one company.

"If IBM's trying to publish a set of standards that are open and more-or-less vendor-neutral, that's not a bad thing," Bert Armijo, senior vice president of sales, marketing and product management at cloud architecture developer 3Tera, told InternetNews.com. "If, on the other hand, it's tied to IBM hardware and software, the market's probably going to ignore it."

Still, other industry players agreed the growing arena of cloud computing needs some standards.

"There should be more activity in standards definition, in driving consensus around what represents good practices," Jake Sorofman, vice president of marketing at rPath, which automates the creation of application images for virtualized and cloud computing environments, told InternetNews.com. "But you can't depend on a single vendor to make that judgment."

Both agreed that the industry lacks cohesiveness in working on standards for cloud computing -- but Armijo said that situation won't last long.

"Cloud computing is moving very fast, and the users will force standardization on us whether we like it or not," he said.