IBM plans large cloud data center in North Carolina

Big week for cloud computing news just gets bigger

IBM today said it is spending $360 million on a new cloud data center facility in North Carolina, the latest in a series of moves by this company to develop technology and infrastructure to support that platform.

IBM's announcement follows one earlier this week by Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., and Yahoo Inc., to jointly provide compute resources to universities to help advance cloud computing research.

All these announcements say one thing: These vendors see big potential and profit in this platform, but perhaps some cause for concern as well. Cloud computing is focused on service delivery, not on the underlying technology that these companies sell. It's a platform that could bring many new service providers into this market -- a business model along the lines of what Amazon is doing with its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

IBM says it is renovating an existing building in Research Triangle Park to build 60,000 square feet of raised-floor data center space, and will complete the work early next year. The $360 million cost, according to IBM, includes construction, technology and personnel expenses. IBM now has nine centers worldwide devoted to cloud computing, and the North Carolina facility will be the largest.

The company employs about 11,000 in existing IBM facilities in that area already, but did not disclose how many would be working specifically in the North Carolina facility.

IBM today also today said that it was opening a cloud computing center in Tokyo, costing about $40 million. And the company is working with Google on some of the technology issues around cloud computing.

Jay Subramonia, the director of high performance on demand solutions at IBM, said its facilities are used for research but also as test beds by customers to experiment with this platform, and see what they can do to make internal operations more cloud-like -- meaning virtualized, automated and dynamic.

Subramonia said the "entry point" for enterprises on working with the cloud model has been in deploying collaboration tools and Web 2.0 systems, as well as using them for software development test environments.

Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT, Inc., a research firm in Hayward, Calif., said that in contrast to the research initiative announced this week by HP, Yahoo and Intel, IBM is demonstrating an early lead on commercial cloud development by by building out test beds.

Cloud systems being built by some of the larger firms, such as Google and Yahoo, are relying on x86-based systems. But IBM says it will include a range systems, from its mainframe on down, in its data center. King believes that IBM will "use all the tool in their garage" to make the case that x86 environments won't meet every need.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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