Data From Afar

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November 15, 2007

I.B.M. to Push ‘Cloud Computing,’ Using
Data From Afar

By
STEVE LOHR

I.B.M.

plans to build a sizable bu
siness by bringing
Google
-
style computing to
mainstream corporate customers.

The I.B.M. strategy, to be annou
nced today, seeks to exploit the technical work
and commercial interest in large data centers that can be run more efficiently,
searched for information and programmed from remote locations over the
Internet.

This model of Internet
-
based supercomputing is
known as cloud computing
because vast stores of information and processing resources can be tapped
from afar


by a laptop personal computer, cellphone or other device.

I.B.M. is calling its initiative Blue Cloud. Most of the basic software needed for
clou
d computing is open source, meaning that the code is freely available and
can be modified by users. The hardware used in the data centers is typically
many thousands of industry
-
standard server computers, powered by
processors made by
Intel

or
Advanced Micro Devices
, and produced by many
hardware makers.

But I.B.M., analysts say, is trying to position itself as a leader in the corporate
market for cloud computing, which many
specialists regard as the next
evolutionary step in information technology. The business strategy, they say,
is to sell more I.B.M. hardware, software and services tailored for cloud
computing. Starting in spring 2008, I.B.M. will offer versions of its ser
ver
computers, including mainframes, that are adapted for cloud computing.

The game plan, I.B.M. executives say, is similar to the one the company
followed in supporting Linux, an open
-
source operating system and an
alternative to
Microsoft
’s operating systems. I.B.M.’s endorsement of Linux,
which began in 2000 and included investments in tec
hnical development and
marketing, sped the adoption of that technology among corporate customers.

“To me, this feels like Linux in 2000,” said William M. Zeitler, senior vice
president in charge of the systems and technology group.

I.B.M. now has 200 resea
rchers working on cloud technology, and Mr. Zeitler
said the company had a staged plan over the next three years that would
involve a large investment, though he would not elaborate on the amount.

Several customers, including corporations and government ag
encies, have
been working with I.B.M. in pilot projects on cloud computing. Mr. Zeitler did
not identify the companies, but said, “Large financial services companies are
going to be among the first to be interested.”

Companies with fast
-
growing data center
s, like banks and securities firms, are
facing the same headaches as the large Internet companies, like Google and
Yahoo
. Efficiency, power consumption and management costs are mounting.
And companies of all kinds are increasingly adopting some of the technologies
of Internet companies like searching, mobile commerce and communication,
and collaboration tools like

blogs, wikis and social networks.

In recent years, I.B.M. has championed efforts to make data centers more
efficient and to centralize more computing tasks in the data centers, with
desktops and devices tapping in. These have had names like “autonomic,”

utility” and grid computing.

Those concepts and research efforts have made a contribution to cloud
computing. Experts say tools have been added to spread computing tasks
across clusters of many machines and to make programming simpler.
Advances likely to b
roaden the reach of cloud computing have often come
from researchers tackling the challenges posed by Internet searches.

“In some ways, the cloud is a natural next step from the grid
-
utility model,”
said Frank Gens, an analyst at the research firm IDC. “Wh
at’s different is the
Google programming model, and that really opens things up. You don’t have
to be a Stanford or Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. to program cloud applications.”

The software that I.B.M. is packaging in its cloud offering is called Hadoop,
running
on the Linux operating system. Hadoop is based on an open
-
source
search project called Nutch, and an open
-
source version of Google’s
MapReduce software for spreading complex computer tasks across clusters of
machines.