With the temperature dropping, the leaves falling and the summer a distant memory, it is perhaps apt that cloud computing has been high on the agenda this week.
From Google’s Eric Schmidt claiming cloud use is “inevitable” to white goods giant Whirlpool and the London borough of Hounslow both moving to embrace the cloud, the topic has not been out of the headlines as autumn marches on.
Perhaps the most wide-ranging announcement, though, was from IBM, which announced a series of new updates and products for its cloud portfolio as part of its SoftLayer platform. The move sees the juggernaut of enterprise IT positioning itself to meet the cloud needs of any firm.
V3 spoke with the UK cloud leader for IBM, Doug Clarke, who said that for many firms cloud is now more about just saving costs, but is also about making their staff and working processes more efficient.
“Many of our clients, if not all, are looking to reduce costs and cloud supports that, but what they really get a buzz about is becoming more agile and improving efficiency so they can work faster,” he said.
Clarke, like many cloud commentators, believes that the growing trend now is for firms to take one of three routes: private, public or hybrid, with the last option proving particularly popular.
“We have many clients who want to run a private cloud in their own data centre and we can support that. But we have many clients, often younger firms, that don’t want to have infrastructure, and their IT is born on the cloud,” he said.
“Then we have a good number of clients in the middle of this, running on hybrid architectures where some workloads are in dedicated environments or use managed service providers, while they may be sharing compute power for other needs.”
As such, the move for SoftLayer and the announcement this week, appears to very much play into this final set of companies, by allowing IBM to offer a mix of offerings, as Clarke explained.
“It gives us a breadth of cloud options so our clients, both traditional and new clients, can broaden their footprint in the cloud. So, even if they use a private cloud for some systems, they could use SoftLayer to try new deployments,” he said.
“For example, a firm may be content using IBM to host its system for SAP or Oracle tools, but now with SoftLayer there is an opportunity to try new work loads, especially around mobile or social tools, outside of their traditional estate. They can link this in time to the traditional estate, it keeps it there as a permanent public cloud.”
IBM's move for SoftLayer is already paying off, with the firm touting that an additional 1,600 clients have joined its books on top of the 21,000 that were already using the SoftLayer platform, such as fitness firm FitBit.
Of course, IBM is not the only firm in the cloud market pitching itself in this direction, and it will face competition from the likes of Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft Azure in the cloud market.
Analyst Clive Longbottom from Quocirca said the SoftLayer buy and the strategy it has outlined, including support for OpenStack, means Big Blue is now far better placed to compete with its rivals.
"IBM has struggled with its cloud story – not as much as HP or Dell, but it has still not managed to make any real inroads against the big hits of AWS and Google, or even with Azure in different ways," he told V3.
"Now that IBM has decided to build its cloud strategy on OpenStack, it gives a far better argument to take to the world. It can offer a standardised stack for private and public clouds, and with SoftLayer, it can offer the IaaS platform where customers can load up their apps and stuff that won’t run on a OpenStack environment."
For IBM the next challenge will be ensuring it keeps its messaging plain and simple so firms are fully aware of the various options it offers alongside its rivals, such as Google and Microsoft.
Whether cloud use for all is "inevitable" as Schmidt predicted remains to be seen, but clearly, the raft of announcements this week proves that cloud computing is undoubtedly going to become a key pillar of many companies' IT strategies.
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