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IBM adds platform services to SmartCloud

Projects 200 million IaaS and PasS million users by 2012

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System vendors have two choices: start their own clouds using their own iron or lose control of customers to someone who does. And they also have to give customers a chance to build similar private clouds based on their wares.

IBM, like Dell, Oracle, and soon Hewlett-Packard when it announces its cloud, has decided to build its own clouds. The IBM SmartCloud is no longer just for raw infrastructure, but will be available as a complete platform cloud with middleware, database, and other services all bundled in and managed by Big Blue.

Earlier this year, IBM said that it expected to generate around $7bn in 2015 from sales of hardware, software, and services for cloud computing, a forecast that the company reminded everyone of during Wednesday's SmartCloud enhancements. What IBM didn't say, but which it told Wall Street during its Investor Day in March, was that only about $3bn of that revenue would be net-new business because it would destroy around $4bn in external sales of hardware, software, and services.

The new data point for IBM's cloud business, divulged as part of today's SmartCloud extravaganza, is that Big Blue hopes to have 200 million users – meaning seats, not individual customers – on its SmartCloud public cloud by the end of 2012.

The SmartCloud public cloud was puffed up by Big Blue in April. The regular SmartCloud Enterprise is an infrastructure cloud based on x86 servers, has a 99.5 per cent uptime agreement and runs Microsoft Windows 2003 and 2008, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 and 5.5, and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 on virtual server slices. The x86 servers are diced and sliced by Red Hat's KVM hypervisor.

The heftier SmartCloud Enterprise+ infrastructure cloud is available with either x86 or Power servers and has a 99.9 percent availability guarantee. On the Power machines, IBM is using its own PowerVM hypervisor and supports IBM's AIX operating system as well as Red Hat and SUSE Linuxes.

The SmartCloud Enterprise+ infrastructure cloud was previewed back in April and is available starting Wednesday in the United States. It will be rolled out around the globe in IBM's myriad data centers before the end of 2012. In the first half of 2012, selected business partners who complete training and certification on the SmartCloud public cloud will be allowed to resell capacity on that cloud, just as they would if they were a physical reseller and worked downstream from either Arrow Electronics or Avnet.

It is not clear how IBM intends to let Arrow and Avnet, its two master distributors, play in the SmartCloud, but if it wants to have a happy systems business – whether it is physical or cloudy – it is going to have to do something to give them a piece of the action.

The new twist is that IBM will be spinning a platform cloud on a subset of its infrastructure cloud and layering on a set of middleware, database, and other services on top of SmartCloud Enterprise+ (never end a word with a plus or a minus or even more stupidly, an exclamation point because it makes ending punctuation for the sentence impossible unless you throw in a parenthetical, like this).

The database and messaging platforms that are part of the platform are intended to be common resources for each users' applications; it also includes a suite of Rational development, test, and application lifecycle management tools that run on the cloud and manage the apps created to run atop the platform layer. IBM's Cast Iron integration appliance is also part of the platform cloud, as is its Workload Deployer tool for deploying Java applications atop Big Blue's WebSphere middleware stack. IBM's DB2 and Informix databases are available as database services.

SAP and Sugar

And perhaps most interestingly, IBM is taking its experience running 1.5 million SAP seats (including an internal SAP system for its own business, which has several hundred thousand users) to create a platform layer for running SAP applications and databases on the SmartCloud platform. Big Blue will no doubt do the same thing for application stacks from Oracle, Microsoft, Infor, and others, mainly because it has no choice in the matter. Just like Global Services has had to offer support for other vendors' hardware and software for two decades. SugarCRM, the popular open source customer relationship management system, is certified as an application on SmartCloud, too.

IBM was pretty vague about exactly how these platform services are all woven together, and did not say when they would be generally available. The platform layer for SmartCloud is in beta testing now and IBM is promising "enterprise-grade security, open Java, and cross-platform support with no vendor lock-in" as well as "a comprehensive set of application infrastructure and managed services" for the SmartCloud platform.

Another interesting new addition to the SmartCloud infrastructure and platform cloud is the fact that IBM has tapped Nirvanix, which runs its own storage cloud, to be the software behind a cloudy storage service that also runs on the SmartCloud. Under the agreement between IBM and Nirvanix, Big Blue is OEMing the Nirvanix software and reselling it as its own service, which will be aimed at media, entertainment, healthcare, and financial services who generate lots of unstructured data (documents, email, logs, and the like) and want them saved but don't want to build a data center of their own to save them. Nirvanix has over 1,200 customers already using its Cloud Storage Network.

On the private cloud front, IBM realized that its CloudBurst private cloud hardware had a confusing name, given that the public cloud is called SmartCloud and hooks into that whole "Smarter Planet" thing IBM's marketeers are going for. And thus, IBM has put out an entry variant of the pre-configured server-storage-networking stacks formerly known as CloudBurst but in this case called the IBM SmartCloud Entry Solution Delivered by IBM Starter Kit for Cloud. Yes, this is a vast improvement, you will no doubt agree.

These new starter kits, which are part of the SmartCloud Foundation line of virtualized servers with some Tivoli monitoring and Service Agility Accelerator for the Cloud software tossed in. They will be available on November 18.

The feeds and speeds for these machines were not released in the IBM announcements, but if you dig around you can find the BladeCenter x86 machine data sheet here, which still doesn't tell you anything about the underlying hardware. (As if this somehow magically doesn't matter anymore.)

Even less information on the Power Systems variant is available here. ®

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