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IBM's Hybrid Computing Sounds a Lot Like Software Plus Services

Another week, another big vendor touting a "cloud" strategy that's about as clear as...well, as a cloud itself. This week, it's IBM, which still gets keyboard keys clicking madly whenever it does anything (and, given IBM's size and reach, we understand why).

The New York Times -- not surprisingly, given that both organizations are kind of old-school -- got IBM's gift of a "scoop" on the cloud story and dutifully ran an article on Monday morning trying to explain the whole thing. Here it is for the intrepid among us.

From what we can tell, IBM is touting a lot of virtualization and some server stacks that are pre-built to handle certain business tasks or processes. There's some stuff, we gather, that'll run in an IBM datacenter, our at least outside a company's walls. However, a lot of what IBM seems to be offering with CloudBurst (yet another technology moniker with words that are SquishedTogether) is on-premises hardware that companies can use to build an internal cloud. (Here's the clearest take we've seen yet on CloudBurst.)

Hardware Plus Services, anybody? We're getting the strong feeling that IBM has taken a Microsoft approach to cloud computing: offer up some true cloud stuff, but make sure not to cannibalize those precious software (or, in IBM's case, hardware) revenues that keep the bottom line black. Oh, and throw in plenty of services, too.

The take in many, maybe most, quarters is that IBM is legitimizing cloud computing with CloudBurst the way it legitimized the PC and Linux. (Forgive us for an eye roll here. Yes, IBM's influence is important, but it's hardly the sole driver of which technologies get picked up by the enterprise masses and which don't.)  

But is CloudBurst even cloud computing? Does it do what cloud computing is meant to do? And, more importantly, does it cost as little as cloud computing is supposed to cost (that is to say, very little, billed as a monthly or yearly subscription fee)? Consider this (from the article linked):

"IBM CloudBurst V1.1 costs $207,387 without discounts and ships in four days time. CloudBurst, it claims, is a complete cloud computing package that can deliver a virtual machine in support of different types of workloads." costs what, now? (We love the "without discounts" part, by the way. It's just funny for some reason when the price tag tops $200K. It's sort of like talking about a discount on a Ferrari or something.) That sounds like a lot of money compared to cloud services that cost more like $99 per user per month, if that...often much less. 

We have no doubt that CloudBurst will be a powerful and useful offering for companies interested in being their own cloud providers, but what about smaller firms that just want to dump everything on somebody else, write a check every month (figuratively speaking) and not really have any kind of IT staff? We're not seeing much for them in CloudBurst, and we kind of thought they were the primary target for cloud computing. But then maybe our vision is (hands up, all of you who recognize this as an old Pink Floyd album)...obscured by clouds.

Do you have a take on IBM's cloud announcement? Send it to

Posted by Lee Pender on 06/16/2009 at 1:22 PM


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