IBM to open London data centre in $1.2 billion cloud push

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Global computing giant IBM is to open a new cloud data centre in London, as part of a massive $1.2 billion (£723 million) push to bring cloud services closer to its customers.

With 15 new data centres planned for North America, China, Japan, India and the UK, the programme of expansion will bring IBM’s total number of global data centres delivering cloud services to 40, including the 13 it acquired in its mid-2013 purchase of cloud provider SoftLayer for $2 billion (£1.2 billion).

In fact, IBM is putting its SoftLayer infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering at the very heart of its cloud strategy and aims to double cloud capacity for the service, which company executives claim has gained 2,400 new customers since the deal closed in July 2013. The company is in the process of winding down its SmartCloud business and transitioning most customers for that service to SoftLayer instead.

At present, UK customers using SoftLayer must be prepared to keep their workloads outside of the UK, with the nearest SoftLayer data centre being located in Amsterdam. A London-based facility might be helpful in helping the company attract customers that prefer to keep the workloads closer to home.

But the rationale behind the SoftLayer purchase was, in fact, its flexibility in enabling customers with compliance concerns to choose where they want to keep their data - or at least, the physical location of the machines hosting that data - and give them transparency into how data is stored and used.

London-based online gaming company Multiplay hosts more than 60 online games and serves 500,000 gamers from around the world on SoftLayer, said Erich Clementi, senior vice president of global technology services at IBM, in a

blog post

outlining the company’s plans.

“Cloud computing offers the potential of placing information, insights and decision-making intelligence at people’s [sic] fingertips, any time and anywhere,” he wrote. “Via the cloud, large multinational businesses can function seamlessly and smaller companies can become instantly global. But this promise can’t be fully realised without robust global networks of data centres and communications hubs that assure the highest security of data, always-on reliability and instantaneous interactions for their employees and customers alike.”

The plans for investment in SoftLayer’s cloud platform follows IBM’s announcement last week that it is to create a new business division around its highly experimental Watson artificial intelligence technology, which it is attempting to reposition as a big data product for analysing large volumes of data in response to queries written in natural language. IBM plans to invest more than $1 billion in the unit and run Watson on SoftLayer’s cloud.

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