IBM gives on-demand computing a boost

IBM Corp. sought to advance its US$10 billion on-demand computing initiative on several fronts last week, announcing new grid software for aggregating computing resources and middleware for extending business applications to mobile devices. Chief executive officer Sam Palmisano, too, lent his weight to the cause, reiterating IBM’s on-demand vision before a gathering of venture capitalists and software vendors.

Grid computing is a key element of IBM’s on-demand strategy, which seeks to make software and systems more responsive to changing business needs. To that end, IBM unveiled grid computing applications tailored to companies in the financial industry. The vendor also announced ongoing grid projects with a handful of commercial and institutional customers, including Morgan Stanley and Hewitt Associates LLC.

IBM teamed with business-intelligence software maker SAS Institute Inc. for one of its new vertical grid applications, Grid Offering for Analytics Acceleration. The software incorporates SAS’s credit-scoring application and is aimed at providing banks with tools for mining customer information and generating sophisticated statistical models more quickly, IBM says.

With partner DataSynapse, IBM developed Grid Offering for Risk Management and Compliance to help businesses in the capital markets and retail banking industries create a grid infrastructure that can support real-time credit-limit monitoring.

Separately, IBM announced product upgrades and partnerships in support of its pervasive computing strategy, an ongoing effort to provide end users with on-the-fly access to any content, from any device, on any network.

New to its portfolio is Extension Services for WebSphere Everyplace, embedded middleware that is aimed at making it easier for companies to deliver enterprise applications to wireless devices. The technology doesn’t require developers to rewrite applications for mobile devices, IBM says. With Extension Services, end users can run applications on mobile devices that are intermittently connected to the network, and remotely download only the portions of applications and data they need.

Meanwhile, Palmisano addressed about 300 venture capitalists and software vendors at IBM’s Palisades, N.Y., facility last week, where he emphasized on-demand computing and Big Blue’s commitment to partnering with independent software vendors (ISV).

His message, which was echoed by each of the senior IBM executives who also took to the podium, “stands in contrast to some other large software companies that have tended to compete with venture-backed companies and independent software vendors,” says Brooke Coburn, managing director at venture capital firm Carlyle Group in Washington, D.C., who attended the event.

IBM highlighted partnership opportunities and the importance of collaborating with specialized software makers, Coburn says. Microsoft Corp., meanwhile, is putting itself in a position to compete, rather than partner, with enterprise application vendors, he says. “It’s just a matter of time before they suck all of the oxygen out of the ISV market.”

Palmisano first detailed IBM’s now familiar on-demand vision last October, committing $10 billion in research and development, acquisition and marketing funds to the effort. He’s not alone. Myriad management, systems, server and storage vendors including Computer Associates International Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Microsoft and Sun Microsystems Inc. also have articulated utility computing strategies.

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