There are some whose definition of cloud computing includes by rule, not by option, the capability to provision additional resources such as storage and processing into an expanding pool, without regard to brand, format, or protocol. That isn't exactly what we're seeing today from IBM, which many will recall was able to bend "grid computing" toward its center of gravity as well.
The new universe of IBM cloud services is covered in a layer of semantic goo. Swimming through it can be suffocating, so instead of replicating it here, we've surgically extracted the core elements of today's multiple announcements, and we present them here all clean and free of metaphor.
This just in: IBM launched its current set of SmartCloud private cloud services for business last April. Not today, but six months ago. This was not IBM's first entry into the cloud; it has been building Platform-as-a-Service around WebSphere since 2009. Further, IBM extended its private cloud services last June. So articles you may be reading today about IBM premiering private and even public cloud services today for the first time, are victims of the aforementioned semantic goo.
Part One: SmartClouds
The public cloud services which IBM has been building for several years, are today being divided into tiers according to customer class.
1. SmartCloud Entry services will be geared towards small businesses building private cloud platforms for the first time, and who have System x or Power servers. Though this tier is centered around getting the hardware nucleus going, it also enables "standardization of virtual machines." Here, it's important to note that IBM is a founding member of the Open Virtualization Alliance, whose members include Red Hat and SUSE.
2. SmartCloud Foundation services (to which SmartCloud Entry officially belongs, at least with respect to marketing) adds virtual machine provisioning and monitoring features to the basic platform, thus putting IBM more in competition with VMware and Citrix.
3. SmartCloud Enterprise, which has existed since last April, is centered around an evolution of the platform-as-a-service created for WebSphere. This puts IBM more in competition with Microsoft Windows Azure. It adds what IBM is calling "infrastructure-as-a-platform." (Oh, dear.) No, that's not infrastructure-as-a-service. But ignore the term if you will and assimilate the definition: It gives developers tools not only for building cloud applications but for managing the developers themselves, and for planning the application lifecycle. It also gives companies the tools for deploying their applications in IBM's cloud, making IBM the host; or for deploying applications on the company's private cloud; or for hybrid deployments. The objective is to minimize the amount of time companies spend on the mechanics of development (according to IBM's estimates, by as much as 83%) by developing a more automated, self-service approach.
4. SmartCloud Enterprise+ was announced last April, but it launches today. (You see, a "launch" used to refer to availability, not public awareness.) This is distinguished from the main Enterprise tier in three important respects: First, IBM supplies the operating system licenses for the Enterprise+ tier; for the "non-plus," you bring your own licenses. Second, IBM offers AIX licenses in addition to Linux and Windows; for "non-plus," you bring your own Linux or Windows only. Third, IBM provides tighter security services for the plus tier, including 100% management by IBM human personnel; with the "non-plus" tier, IBM gives your IT staff the tools and support they need to manage your deployment, whether public, private, or hybrid.
Part Two: Service tiers
Now, keep those vertical, columnar distinctions in your mind as I divide these services horizontally by class of service:
A) Self-service. SmartCloud Entry gives small businesses the seeds for building private cloud deployments around IBM servers, storage, and x86/x64 clients.
B) Software-as-a-service (SaaS). The SmartCloud Monitoring software, which is supplied starting with the Foundation column, provides analytics to let admins determine utilization rates, capacity planning, and workload placement. With this, they can evaluate the best placement of processing power in their private or hybrid cloud. The application lifecycle management software is supplied starting with the Enterprise column, along with tools for deploying any application to any number of client systems rapidly, with optimized deployment services added on to ensure reliability. Expect many of IBM's software brands, including Lotus, to offer SaaS to Foundation and Enterprise customers in the coming months.
C) Platform-as-a-service (PaaS). IBM's new application deployment model is based around Java. It starts with the Enterprise column, and enables self-service deployment scenarios for Java applications within private, hybrid, or IBM's public cloud. It also provides services and software for developers to manage workflow and ensure regulatory compliance while building and deploying their applications. Some of these services are being announced today, but not launched. SmartCloud Application Services (which, contrary to its name, is a PaaS, not a SaaS) will initiate beta testing before the end of this year. One reason is in order to build out what IBM calls its SmartCloud Ecosystem, which you can think of as an "app store" not just for cloud services, but for cloud service partners. IBM promises that service partners including financial services and other software companies will make themselves available to Ecosystem customers, and quite likely sublicense their own services through them, making customers into resellers. All of this is part of an initiative IBM began last month, called "Smarter Commerce on the Cloud."
D) Infrastructure-as-a-Service. As part of an agreement announced today, IBM will begin offering full cloud-based storage service through Nirvanix. There will be no caps placed on storage to Nirvanix' systems through SmartCloud Enterprise or Enterprise+. IBM's full-service hosting will be made available to the Enterprise+ column. Availability of this IaaS service begins today in the U.S., with global availability slated before the end of 2012.
While IBM keeps an open approach to applications (where it competes minimally) and clients (where it competes not at all), there's no doubt that the private clouds IBM wants its customers to build are pretty much like the headline of this story. They start and end with IBM.