By Sramana Mitra, Pablo Chacin and Saurabh Mallik
SM: Ric, to start can you tell us about what you have done thus far in cloud computing and talk about how it has evolved at IBM?
RT: I started working on cloud computing – what it was all about, what was going on in the marketplace, and what we should do about it at IBM – in 2008. In that year, we formulated our cloud strategy, which we have been executing ever since. 2009 was a year of consolidation of views – everybody was using the term “cloud” for so many things, most of them inaccurate. The value proposition, cost model, and delivery model all took hold in 2009. We had a lot of work going on: pilots, customer engagements for some of our first cloud services such as LotusLive, and information protection services, which are backup and recovery in the cloud.
But 2010, to answer your question, has really been the year of maturation of cloud computing in terms of our clients having their strategies in place and beginning to execute those strategies. Of course, nothing is at 100%, and I am speaking in generalities, but many of our clients are embarking on a private cloud strategy punctuated by certain public cloud services. For the most part, large enterprises are undertaking a transformation of their own IT delivery models so that they can deliver some of their services to their end users, much like Pat Toole does for IBM in a private cloud inside the firewall of an enterprise. They are starting with the workloads where they get the most return on their investments. In the workload portfolio, what we are seeing is similar to what Pat talked to you about. There are a number of projects going on in private clouds all over the enterprise space in terms of taking development and testing computers, servers, storage, and putting them into the private cloud. So, for these kinds of desktop cloud projects we are seeing a lot of traction.
From the public cloud perspective, the workloads are very similar to what IBM is doing – collaboration, Web conferencing, shared documents, and e-mail. Those types of collaboration services have been emerging in the public cloud space prominently. And then there is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), which has been made most popular by Amazon services and is now hitting the enterprise, and so companies like us are working with enterprises to deliver computing and storage on the cloud. Once again, most of that work is in the development and testing stages, but over time more of these workloads will move to a public model beyond development and testing.
SM: In that scenario, IBM Global Services provides the public cloud?
RT: Yes, IBM Global Services is the hosting and delivery arm for IBM public cloud IaaS. We have both computing and storage, similar to Amazon, and we have a software group that delivers many of the software images prepackaged as virtual machines on top of that. But the hosting and delivery are provided by Global Services.
SM: What is your implication of application-level functions such as human resources (HR), customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and so forth? Global Services always had the practice of integrating applications as well.
RT: What we see today is different from what will be tomorrow. Today, companies are asking how they can best leverage the cloud computing delivery model in their applications, and that doesn’t necessarily mean running their SAP or Oracle system on or moving it to the cloud. But it may mean becoming more efficient by leveraging the cloud. What I mean by that, for example, is by moving their development and test systems and their ERP and similar software packages to the cloud, [they save money, because] that’s where a lot of expense is. For any given large SAP image, most large companies have two or three test development systems behind it where they stage new releases, test of new functions, and test patches and fixes, so there are a lot of IT resources tied up in preproduction versions in SAP and Oracle that can be highly automated and leveraged with the cloud delivery model. We are working with our clients on these. In addition, a lot of the ability in the cloud around dynamic provisioning is in overall efficiencies pertaining to CRM and ERP.