IBM gave a big boost to the concept of cloud computing for enterprise operations with the launch of its "Blue Cloud" platform designed to harness the power of social networking and rich media content for the business world.
The platform will be built largely around the BladeCenter server running both Power and x86 processors. Other components include the Xen and PowerVM virtual Linux images, the Hadoop parallel workload scheduler and the Tivoli server management software. A System z version is planned for next year.
So what exactly is IBM offering? According to Dennis Quan, CTO of high-performance solutions at IBM, the idea is to link up pools of related hardware and software to better handle the enormous data requirements of social network and other Web 2.0 functions. It's a lot like a grid system, except the focus is on enhancing communication between users rather than crunching mammoth databases.
One of the best primers on cloud computing is here at Businessweek.com. For a hands-on look at how a cloud system functions, the most advanced system is probably Yahoo!'s project at Carnegie Mellon University, which uses upwards of 4,000 processors to facilitate software research. Google is planning a similar project that would link systems at the University of Washington, Stanford University and MIT.
One interesting aspect of the cloud computing phenomenon is how the leading operating systems will fit in. Dana Blankenhorn over at ZDNet asks that while IBM is going with Linux, will Sun Microsystems be able to ramp up Solaris to operate at a cloud level? And what about Microsoft? Do Windows and .NET have too much overhead, or will Redmond have to use Linux as well?
Interesting questions that could induce some sweaty palms in certain boardrooms -- that is, if cloud computing catches on.