IBM CIO embraces cloud computing

IBM’s aggressive push in the emerging private cloud market isn’t just for IBM customers – Big Blue is building several private cloud services within its own firewall, CIO Mark Hennessy says.

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IBM’s aggressive push in the emerging private cloud market isn’t just for IBM customers – Big Blue is building several private cloud services within its own firewall, CIO Mark Hennessy says.

Hennessy, the IBM CIO since July 2007, said he’s not ready to adopt public cloud services such as Amazon or Salesforce.com in any major way, but that private clouds are helping IBM deliver development and research tools to employees in a more efficient manner.

Public clouds raise questions about “availability risk, data security risk, regulatory compliance and corporate governance,” Hennessy said in an interview this week.

“If we can utilise those cloud technologies inside our firewall, we kind of get the best of both worlds. We get the efficiency and productivity advantages of cloud technology,” he said. “We have many workloads we would be uncomfortable running in a public environment.”

IBM uses the private cloud model for its Technology Adoption Program, a four-year-old service that’s an “online sandbox where developers and process owners can try out new tools and techniques,” Hennessy noted.

About 10 months ago, IBM launched a private cloud that lets researchers build out and provision their own stacks, and has been used to the tune of 640,000 compute hours, Hennessy continued. And now IBM is building out a new test and development cloud.

“We will use this cloud for all the development and test for our internal systems,” he said.

The phrase private cloud means different things to various observers, but in general cloud networks aggregate servers, storage, and networking into large, shared computing pools, and rely on virtualisation and automation tools to quickly provision new services to end users.

IBM and many other vendors claim they can provide CIOs the tools to build their own clouds. For example, grid vendor Platform Computing just announced software that takes existing hardware and creates shared pools of physical and virtual resources, giving IT administrators a single pane of glass from which to manage and deploy services.

Giving developers and other users the ability to self-provision their own resources has improved productivity at IBM, and the whole cloud model increases energy efficiency, Hennessy said. Although IBM relies mainly on the private cloud model for its own users, Hennessy said a mixture of public and private clouds will be beneficial for enterprises in general.

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