IBM pushes hard into the enterprise cloud

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Company adds cloud centers in 11 new locations as competition heats up

IBM is building out its global computing network in a bid to focus on the enterprise cloud market.

The company announced today that it is adding cloud centers in 11 new locations.

In a $1.2 billion investment, IBM has built cloud centers in Frankfurt, Mexico City and Tokyo. The other eight new locations come to IBM through a partnership with Equinix Inc., which operates data centers across the globe.

The partnership will give IBM access to data centers in Australia, France, Japan, Singapore, the Netherlands and the U.S., boosting IBM's cloud network to a total of 48 cloud centers.

That growth is aimed at helping IBM grow its hybrid cloud business for enterprise clients.

"IBM recognizes that businesses and governments need the cloud to help them innovate, grow and operate more efficiently in concert with their existing IT investments," said Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president of IBM's software & cloud solutions group, in a statement. "Just as we helped major organizations transform in each preceding era of IT, IBM now serves as the cloud platform for the enterprise."

This is a good move for a company that wants to court the enterprise, which is increasingly moving to the cloud, said Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT, Inc.

"Lots of people are wondering if IBM is entering the market too late. I disagree with that," King told Computerworld. "I think the market for cloud is not as mature as some people seem to think it is. There's a lot of headroom in the hybrid cloud, in particular. As the market has become increasingly competitive, there's going to be some interesting shakeouts in the months ahead."

That shakeout should see major cloud players like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and IBM – grappling for marketshare, though King didn't dare to guess where those top players will be a year from now.

He's confident that IBM will continue to be a major cloud player with traditional business clients.

"You can see the other cloud players, including Amazon, making a pitch that their own services are ready for the enterprise," said King. "IBM, though, is very well-positioned for that market right now. Markets evolve and mature in sometimes curious ways, so it will be interesting to see how IBM bears up as other companies try to invade the enterprise cloud space."

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said IBM is putting some muscle into the game with what had to be a sizable investment in these new cloud centers.

"The cloud market is crowded and highly competitive," Olds said. "IBM is trying to differentiate themselves through providing a higher level of service and support, along with giving customers the ability to negotiate their own service levels for their IBM clouds. Other competitors will do this as well, of course, but IBM's experience in providing these types of services for decades through their outsourcing/hosting services arm should give them an advantage with these customers."

Having an IBM cloud center located in their country will also give some customers the ability to use cloud computing for likely the first time, he added.

Many businesses and government organizations are not allowed to use cloud services that host their data outside their country.

"This could give these types of customers a chance to dip their toes into the cloud and see if it's all it's cracked up to be," said Olds. "So, really, the key part of this announcement is the geographic spread of IBM's cloud centers."

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