IBM announced today that it will be investing more than $400 million on two new data centers dedicated to cloud computing purposes, one opening in their ResearchPark facility in North Carolina, and the other in Tokyo. These two join previously established cloud computing centers in China, Africa, and Europe as part of IBM "Blue Cloud" initiative and signal a significant committment to the concept by the company.
The computing services provided by the data centers are currently dedicated to select IBM customers, making them not really cloud-like in my own appreciation of the term. But for a cloistered and insular organization like IBM, this is probably as close as they can get to real cloud computing without having a brain hemorrhage. Even without dipping their toes into the rapidly expanding pool of publicly available, click-here-and-sign-up-at-a-published-rate cloud providers, the vast institutional experience IBM can bring to bear on massively distributed computing could make them a significant contributor to the advancement of the utility computing model. Using a slick combination of off-the-shelf, open-source virtualization technologies (Xen) and their own management software (Tivoli), IBM could be well-positioned to open their resources more broadly in the near future. If they can get past their need to be excessively expensive and complex, they could eat a lot of other players' lunches in the still-developing cloud computing market.