IBM invests big in two new cloud-computing centers

Expected to open late in 2009.

IBM is building a US$360 million cloud-computing data center in North Carolina that the company calls its most sophisticated data center ever, and is opening a new facility in Tokyo designed to help customers pilot their own cloud infrastructures and applications, IBM announced Friday.

The North Carolina data center, a renovation of an existing building in Research Triangle Park, will utilize server virtualization  technology and a new mechanical system design that is 50% more efficient than the industry average, a savings of 31,799 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. With 60,000 square feet of raised floor data center space, it is expected to open late in 2009.

"Clients using this center will have unparalleled access to massive Internet-scale computing capabilities while gaining the cost and environmental protection advantages of IBM's industry-leading, energy-efficiency data center design," IBM said in a press release.

Cloud computing, a hot buzz-phrase in the technology industry, essentially refers to massively scalable IT capabilities delivered to external customers over the Internet. IBM's announcement Friday is part of its Blue Cloud initiative, which it calls "a set of hardware, software and services that allows IBM clients to offer personal and business services from remote, centralized servers, the 'cloud,' that share computing resources and bandwidth -- to any device, anywhere."

IBM is dedicating more than 200 full-time researchers and $100 million over three years to this initiative.

IBM's Tokyo project is not a data center, but instead a facility where cloud computing experts will be made available to large enterprises, universities and governments, helping them design their own cloud infrastructures and applications, and gain the ability to deliver cloud-based services to their own customers. The Tokyo facility will be linked to the new data center in North Carolina.

By pooling computing resources, cloud computing has the potential to overcome the limitations of existing complex and inflexible systems that have trouble satisfying the demands of new applications, such as mobile commerce, broadband over power lines, Web 2.0 and real-time data streams, IBM says.

For example, as consumers increasingly depend on laptops and mobile phones, telecom companies will have to provide new services to perhaps billions of users simultaneously, IBM says.

"In the future your mobile device will be expected to integrate disparate sources of data and communicate with other devices, knowing not only what kind of music you like but also where you are right now, if the band you like is in town, [and have the ability to] buy you a ticket to the show and get you in the door with a digital bar code," IBM says. "Clearly, this requires an immense amount of computing power."

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