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Originally published Monday, June 15, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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IBM ready to help business users step into cloud

IBM this week is introducing products and services and a road map for its corporate and government customers to comfortably embrace cloud computing.

The New York Times

IBM this week is introducing products and services and a road map for its corporate and government customers to comfortably embrace cloud computing.

The technology — in which vast stores of information and processing resources can be tapped from afar, over the Internet, using a personal computer, cellphone or other device — holds great promise.

Analysts say it has the potential to cut the costs, complexity and headaches of technology for companies and government agencies.

Already, Amazon.com, Google and Salesforce.com, among others, offer cloud-based Web services to companies, including e-mail, computer storage and customer-management software.

Reluctant to join

But many big companies and government agencies have been reluctant to get on board because of traditional corporate-computing concerns like data security, reliability of service and regulatory compliance.

"IBM knows how to do all of those things," said Frank Gens, chief analyst for IDC, a technology research firm. "Its strategy is all about making cloud computing safe for enterprise customers."

Even if IBM succeeds, there is no guarantee it will be the main beneficiary of the trend. After IBM helped create the PC industry, lower-cost competitors ended up dominating the business.

In the cloud market, IBM plans to take a tailored approach. The hardware and software will be meant for specific computing chores. Just as Google runs a computing cloud optimized for Internet search, IBM will make clouds for computing workloads in business.

Its early cloud entries, to be announced today, follow that model.

One set is focused on streamlining the technology used by corporate software developers and testers, which can consume 30 percent or more of a company's technology resources.

Virtual desktop

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The second set is virtual desktop services, in which PC software, either from Microsoft or open-source alternatives, is run on remote servers and piped to simple desktop machines equipped with screens and keyboards.

IBM found in tests with clients that such virtual PCs, with little desktop processing or storage, can use 70 percent less power than conventional PCs and reduce technical support costs by up to 40 percent,.

Both the software development and desktop services are being offered as an integrated bundle of hardware and software for a cloud running inside a corporate or government data center, or as a cloud service hosted in an IBM data center.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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