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Bringing cloud metrics down to earth

Hmmm, I don't know how much of these numbers in front of me I'm allowed to share. A lot of it is IBM-confidential. But I'll try to walk the thin line.


It's public knowledge that IBM is a player in the cloud computing space. It's also public knowledge that IBM is not a huge player. And it's an easy guess that IBM wishes it had a bigger slice of the pie. Given all that, you could infer -- correctly -- that IBM is cooking up some ideas that it expects to vault it over the competition.


And for any more about that, you'll have to wait for the announcement.


Still ...


I can tell you to expect a cascade of new offerings through 2010 and 2011. Early days will focus on middleware, open source, support, security & compliance, storage and server virtualization. There's more, of course, but those are the first-quarter highlights.


I can also tell you that IBM expects to be able to compete on price in this arena, which is a departure for a company that's convinced it's the Tiffany's of computers. I like IBM hardware myself, but I'll be honest with you: The most appealing thing about this ThinkPad T60 I'm pounding away at right now is that Big Blue gives it to me for free.


So what kinds of costs are IBM keeping an eye on? In the platform-as-a-service world, IBM is focused on price per hour for a standard computing unit -- processing, memory and storage -- and internet costs per gigabyte, which will be different inbound or outbound.


IBM expects to capture the lead on these costs by:
  1. carefully selecting the right processors, not necessarily the most powerful;

  2. optimizing storage alternatives, for which customers' workloads will determine selection;

  3. improving energy efficiency; and

  4. paying close attention to network architecture.

Big Blue may be at a competitive disadvantage now, and not for organic reasons. IBM has the people, the hardware, the software, the network bandwidth and the facilities to make a major splash in cloud computing. The only disadvantages that IBM are that it is a) big and b) old. Laser focus and nimble thinking aren't net exports from Armonk. IBM was late to the game. But it's here now.


Expect new hardware to be committed and, if necessary invented. Expect IBM to eat its own cooking when it comes to data center solutions. Expect Tivoli and the rest of IBM Software Group to fuel the catch-up drive. And expect IBM to do what it does better than anyone else, and always has: Keep throwing more and more people at a problem until the right skills in the right quantities are found to solve it.


If you've ever met me personally, you know I'm not a rah-rah IBMer. I like working there. I like the processes we use to come up with solutions. But I'm not some human resources flack who doesn't believe the company is capable of being short-sighted, confused or just plain wrong. But I'm a happy shareholder, and I have all the confidence in the world that, as far as the cloud computing market is concerned, IBM is going to spend 2010 in the passing lane.



***



Now I'm sure I've shared too much. I've made sure that I haven't shared any actual unit prices or costs with you, but still some functionary in a blue suit is probably going to give me a stern lecture. I'll nod along until he's out of breath. Ultimately, I won't get into any serious trouble due to this post for one reason:


I'm doing IBM a favor.


By telling you the metrics that IBM is tracking, I'm also suggesting to you that these are the measures you ought to track as well -- the ones that you should be comparing side-by-side as you sort through prospective vendors.


And I wouldn't be giving you a metric if IBM wasn't poised to beat everyone else in the game at it.


Have a better day,


Bill


PS: Sorry for the radio silence recently. I had to take some family leave, then came a very busy holiday season. I'll do better going forward.

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More Stories By Rich Bruklis

A 20 year veteran of the storage industry, Rich has been a business leader in product marketing. He has seen the industry change from backup on 5.25" floppies to 10,000 cartridge tape libraries with every tape "standard" in between. Rich has supported 5.25" 30MB hard drives and launched disk arrays with hundreds of drives. Most recently, Rich has focused on business continuity and disaster recovery.

While the hardware industry continues to experience BBFC (Bigger, Better, Faster, Cheaper), there is a cloud on the horizon that is about to disrupt that trend. Cloud Computing will fundamentally change the IT world much like the network changed client-server computing.

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