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IBM floats Blue Cloud computing plan

Internet-scale "cloud computing" infrastructure draws on the open-source grid, virtualization, and data center workload management software.

IBM on Thursday announced an offering called Blue Cloud meant to make it easier to run large-scale applications with massive databases over the Internet.

The computing giant said it has dedicated 200 researchers to the project and will have services available as of the first quarter next year.

The first product will be an IBM BladeCenter with Linux-based servers equipped with a suite of "cloud" software.

IBM's Blue Cloud includes a Blade Center rack of Linux servers and data center software for handling data-intensive applications. IBM

That includes grid-computing software, virtualization tools Xen and PowerVM, and the open-source Hadoop parallel workload-scheduling software originally developed by Yahoo. The suite will also include IBM's Tivoli data center management software for automatically provisioning hardware to adjust for fluctuating computing demand.

The offering came out of internal work IBM did in creating its own clouds--essentially a server installation that is capable of handling very large sets of data and can operate efficiently by drawing on virtualization and other data center management software.

IBM and Google last month announced a plan to set up a few of these server infrastructures to help college students learn how to write applications that could run on hundreds or thousands of servers.

As more Web 2.0-style applications, which include lots of content contributed by end users, come online, companies will need to have better tools to handle them, said Dennis Quan, chief technology officer of high performance on demand solutions at IBM.

"What's at the heart of this is the realization that this technology is not restricted to universities or academic institutions. There's a broad applicability for this technology," Quan said.

Initially, customers will run the hardware-software bundle internally. But IBM is also looking at offering outsourced computing services based on the Blue Cloud suite, Quan said.

He said it builds on the much-discussed notion of outsourced utility-computing services by using the most current software, notably virtualization. Also, the suite is designed to handle changes in computing demand driven by end users, such as a large number of mobile users coming online at the same time.

Microsoft is also building a "utility-computing fabric" to offer what it calls a Cloud OS for running Internet-scale applications. Amazon Web Services, too, offers software developers outsourced computing services that run on Amazon's data centers.