IBM Opens Cloud Computing Centers in Africa, China

By Nicole Hemsoth

June 30, 2008

IBM announced the opening of new cloud computing centers in South Africa and China. Cloud computing enables the delivery of personal and business services from remote, centralized servers (the “cloud”) that share computing resources and bandwidth — to any device, anywhere.

The shift to cloud computing is fueled by the dramatic growth in business collaboration, connected devices, real-time data streams, and Web 2.0 applications such as streaming media and entertainment, social networking and mobile commerce. Cloud computing represents a major step up in computing — as it enables governments, businesses and individuals to access super-computing power, analysis of massive amounts of data, and applications five to 10-times more cost effectively.

The new centers are designed to help clients in Africa and China tackle issues they would otherwise not be able to address. For example, using IBM’s new centers, a university could access the computational power of a supercomputer to analyze data and determine how diseases might spread in a region or how climate changes will affect natural resources.

“These centers will enable our clients in China and sub-Saharan Africa to better embrace the services-based, global economy,” said Nick Donofrio, IBM’s executive vice president of innovation and technology. “Much like the power-generation and manufacturing infrastructures before it, the datacenter continues to consolidate for scale and become increasingly more efficient and interconnected with partners and the public Internet infrastructure. From that, a global value chain of information technology is emerging.”

IBM has set aside $120 million over two years in sub-Saharan Africa to capitalize on enormous populations of skills and expertise and to capture rapid growth in emerging market countries as they heavily invest in IT to modernize their societies and build out their fundamental business infrastructures in areas such as government services, banking and telecommunications. The new centers are part of IBM’s overall investment in the world’s growth markets, to which the company committed an additional $1.6 billion earlier this year.

The two new centers are part of IBM’s expansion of its cloud computing capabilities around the world. IBM launched Europe’s first Cloud Computing Center in Dublin, Ireland in March. Over the past year, IBM has provided cloud computing services to clients such as Wuxi City of China, Sogeti, the Local Professional Services Division of Capgemini, the Vietnamese government institutions and universities, and iTricity, a computing host service company based in the Netherlands.

The new center in Beijing draws upon experts from IBM’s research and development labs in China, where IBM has established a significant research and development presence. There currently are more than 3,200 IBM engineers and scientists employed by IBM labs in Beijing and Shanghai. China is home to one of IBM’s eight research labs worldwide.

“China is focused on transforming itself into a services-led economy,” said Henry Chow, chairman of the IBM Greater China Group. “New business models are key to the change and growth. Cloud computing and our expertise can help Chinese enterprises with their agenda.”

The Beijing center will help clients test proofs of concept, as well as design and deploy cloud computing infrastructures and projects. The center will provide clients with resources such as reference studies and skills training about the cloud computing environment.

The new Africa Innovation Center located in Johannesburg is the first of its kind on the continent. In addition to cloud computing, the center will showcase Web 2.0 technologies, service-oriented architecture (SOA), systems management, next-generation banking systems, and environmentally friendly computing designs as it nurtures information technology skills and addresses business challenges in the economic growth of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the South African center, Mrs. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, said, “We are highly energized by IBM’s investment because it directly responds to our call for increased private sector investment into sustainable initiatives that advance priority technical skills. It is also encouraging that the company’s plans integrate the entire Sub-Saharan Africa, which assures us that in the long term we will secure a thriving South Africa in a prosperous region.”

The new center will offer an array of services for IBM business partners, software start-ups, IT professionals and academia, who will be able to use its resources to develop skills and deliver solutions to global markets using IBM’s open architecture. They will be able to access IBM services such as product demonstrations, business consulting, and workshops for designing, testing, as well as piloting projects to drive business growth, reduce time-to-market and lower development costs.

“The Africa Innovation Center is a landmark investment for IBM because it represents our commitment to be a partner in the continent’s growth agenda,” said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Software Group. This commitment is backed by IBM’s globally integrated enterprise strategy driven by a newly created IBM Growth Markets Organization to accelerate the company’s performance in rapidly expanding markets, such as Africa.

IBM has also deployed IBM Idea Factory for Cloud Computing for the University of Pretoria’s Computational Intelligence Research Group. Computer science students will be able to access this new service — based on Web 2.0 technologies and delivered through IBM’s cloud computing environment — to create new projects and collaborate with other members of their community.

“IBM’s cloud solution will help our researchers reduce the total time to set-up and run simulations from weeks to days, thereby expanding our scope of research capabilities and improving the productivity of our research students,” said Professor Andries Englebrecht of the University of Pretoria.

IBM also has launched “Blue Cloud,” a collection of enabling technologies that is used to create cloud computing experiences for customers in datacenter, hosting service and other cloud environments. Blue Cloud is a key technology for IBM’s New Enterprise Data Center (NEDC) initiative, as well as for all of the IBM Cloud Computing centers worldwide.

The two new centers offer access to IBM’s global network of 39 Innovation Centers and 60 research and development labs. Companies are able to tap into IBM expertise regardless of their proximity to any global center.

For more information about IBM cloud computing, visit www.ibm.com/developerworks/websphere/zones/hipods/, www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/photo/22615.wss.

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