IBM is expected to announce Tuesday its plans to go online with its commercial cloud service for software development and testing, allowing enterprise and government clients to access to IBM cloud services.
Testing services are an excellent use-case for cloud services, and a number of start-ups including Sauce Labs and SOASTA have offerings that allow customers to test their applications without having to build a massive test infrastructure.
According to IBM Research, the average enterprise IT department devotes up to 50 percent of its entire technology infrastructure to development and test, with up to 90 percent of the available test infrastructure remaining idle.
IBM also announced that it is working with partners in cloud management, cloud security and software development and, testing support to provide businesses to offer more complete solutions.
A big challenge for large vendors like IBM is how to deal with start-ups that exist in the ecosystem. To date, the cloud market has been largely dominated by Amazon, which is generally considered to be neutral to any specific vendors tools or approaches.
Amazon wins whenever any customer uses their service, but for companies like IBM that offer their own software in addition to cloud services, there will eventually be some level of conflict. And while none of the companies in the ecosystem pose a real threat to IBM at this point, the time will come when even complementary offerings start to look like threats.
IBM's cloud environment includes support for Linux--through Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise from Novell--as well as Java (presumably supported directly by IBM.)
Interestingly, the underlying virtualization is powered by Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, the Red Hat branded and supported KVM offering, as opposed to Xen, which powers much of Amazon. IBM and Red Hat have long been partners, but it's a huge boost for Red Hat's virtualization efforts to get IBM on board in such a big way.
This would also suggest that IBM will not offer its own virtualization engine and instead let its customers choose their virtualization vendor. In light of VMware's dominance and Microsoft's moves to make Hyper-V relevant, it's only a bit of surprise to see IBM endorse Red Hat virtualization in such a way.
Ultimately, IBM has set itself up to be as neutral as possible while also making its own software and services appealing to enterprises. What remains to be seen is how the rapid growth of virtualization and cloud will turn the ecosystem into partners, enemies, and acquisition targets.