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IBM started out as a company that only rented computing and tabulating equipment until it was compelled by an antitrust settlement to actually sell its gear. It may someday end up as one that mostly sells cloud computing capacity.

Big Blue is as enthusiastic as it is worried about cloud computing. That means a flurry of press releases as it rebrands the outsourcing and hosting that its Global Services behemoth sells as cloud computing services. Cloud computing is a little different to hosting, to be sure, with virtualized infrastructure and strict pay-per-use billing. But in the end, you still need data centers to deliver computing, storage, and networking.

As a result, IBM said today that it would be breaking ground in Auckland, New Zealand on an $80m (NZD) 56,000 square foot "smart" - by which the company means very energy efficient - data center. It will be operational late next year, supporting cloud computing on behalf of IBM's subscribers. The initial IT part of the facility will account for about 16,000 square feet of space and will use outside air during cold months to keep the servers and storage from breaking out in a sweat. As demand picks up, the data center can expand to eat up the remaining 40,000 square feet.

IBM did not supply details about what iron will go in the facility, which will be located in Highbrook Business Park in Auckland's East Tamaki section. If the Auckland cloud facility is like other IBM centers, it will have a mainframe or two, a smattering of Power Systems iron, and a slew of System x and BladeCenter boxes, mirroring the distribution of system types out there in the real world.

IBM has over 488 data centers worldwide, comprising over 8 million square feet of space that the company and its outsourcing clients use. It has also helped build an additional 30 million square feet of data center capacity on behalf of other customers who want to run their own iron.

The company has opened ten cloud computing centers worldwide so far, with one of the largest being a $360m green retrofit on a 100,000 square foot data center on IBM's campus at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. A similar facility in Denver, Colorado, for outsourcing and cloud computing has already been retrofitted under IBM's Project "Big Green" revamping of its data centers.

Under that project, which was started in May 2007, IBM said it would spend $1bn per year to double the computing capacity within its data centers by 2010, without raising their power consumption.

The company said today that it is adding an 80-person cloud computing engineering lab in Hong Kong, which will be an offshoot of the 5,000-person development lab it set up in China. It will be formed from the chunk of Outblaze Ltd, a Hong Kong messaging software company, that IBM quietly acquired the assets of earlier this year.

The Hong Kong lab will work on cloud versions of IBM's Lotus collaboration software, called LotusLive iNotes. A sign of the times can be seen in the fact that the China Development Lab is now Big Blue's largest software development facility.

Finally, IBM reminded everyone today that in late October it opened up a smart data center in Songdo New City in Incheon, South Korea. This cloud computing and outsourcing facility is built in a four-story building that has just under 11,000 square feet of data center capacity and is able to withstand earthquakes up to 7.0 on the Richter scale. IBM claims that it is the most energy efficient data center in the country, but did not provide power usage effectiveness (PUE) numbers to document this. ®

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