Both companies are becoming better placed to challenge the more established cloud firms...
IBM and Dell have unveiled a range of products and services that they hope will help them make significant headway in the cloud computing market.
With cloud computing predicted to boom in 2011, two of tech's heavyweights have joined HP in ramping up their cloud technology to compete with more established cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft and Rackspace.
IBM has unveiled SmartCloud, a set of cloud services that allows customers to use the company's infrastructure to run various computing processes and store data.
Although IBM already offers cloud-based technology, its existing services have mainly focused on providing a test and development environment rather than business production processes - such as providing additional computing capacity to businesses during periods of peak demand.
IBM's cloud leader for UK and Ireland, Doug Clark, told silicon.com that SmartCloud is a production-grade cloud that is managed and hosted and has the flexibility and security to cope with widely varying workloads.
"It's really an evolution. The way this is being launched, we think it's quite a significant step forward - it's almost the next-generation iteration from an IBM point of view," he added.
The idea is for IBM customers who have been experimenting with cloud computing and using it for development to start deploying the technology for wider business use. Customers also have the option of running the cloud technology on-premise or hosted by a third-party service provider.
"From a dev and test point of view, it will depend on what sort of workloads or things companies need to set up and test out. Subject to that, they may then want to build their own private cloud in their own facilities or it could be a combination of public and private," Clark said.
There will be two versions of the SmartCloud technology: Enterprise and Enterprise +. Enterprise is already available while Enterprise + will be available later in the year with additional IBM services for managing cloud infrastructure.
Clark added that the technology is both infrastructure as a service...
...and platform as a service with businesses able to use IBM technologies including System Z, WebSphere and storage.
"It really is versatile in terms of the base platform - the base infrastructure is really fit for purpose. All the relevant software appliances will be there," Clark said.
Quocirca director and analyst Bob Tarzey said the additional cloud services will help IBM develop its system-integration projects. "IBM had hosted services anyway, so building a public cloud will allow it to [provide] embedded hosted infrastructure in its system-integration projects at a lower cost," he told silicon.com.
As well as the public cloud service, IBM has launched new tools and services for companies to set up private cloud environments or follow a hybrid approach, mixing public and private cloud.
Reflecting IBM's aim to generate £7bn in revenue from cloud computing by 2015, the company has also joined the Cloud Standards Customer Council, a group of 40 big business names tackling cloud-related issues such as compliance and security.
Dell has also unveiled its next step in cloud computing, announcing plans to build a number of cloud datacentres around the world over the next two years and launching a number of cloud-management tools and software-as-a-service applications.
As with the IBM technology, customers will be able to use these new Dell datacentres for infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, hosting external applications and testing.
The datacentres and cloud announcement is part of a $1bn investment programme, which also includes a partnership with Microsoft to help customers manage virtualised environments and the vStart portfolio of services to accelerate customers' move to the cloud.
Ovum senior analyst Laurent Lachal told silicon.com that Dell is now catching up with other vendors but isn't doing anything particularly new.
"This is something [Dell] needs to do. They have been doing a few bits and pieces but they've never really pulled their efforts together to define their intention of being aggressive and putting their stake in the ground of the cloud computing territory," he said.
Lachal added that the latest announcement is "really the proper start of [Dell] being very serious about the cloud" and shows the company is moving from a defensive to an offensive position where cloud computing is concerned.
Tarzey said it's no surprise that Dell and IBM have both ramped up their cloud computing services because large services businesses need cloud capability to compete effectively on costs.
He added that the two companies are likely to sell their cloud services alongside their system-integration businesses, so they're particularly targeting HP, which has also been upping its cloud computing efforts.
"It is less likely they will build a route to market purely for cloud, as Rackspace has, and Amazon relies on keeping costs down through being a low-touch commodity play. Dell and IBM will charge more for higher touch and embed in broader system integration offerings," Tarzey said.
However, Tarzey isn't convinced that all businesses looking to move into cloud computing will automatically consider Dell or IBM.
"Customers who turn to IBM and Dell for system-integration work will have accepted an element of public cloud in the offering where it is proposed. Customers who go seeking public cloud for themselves are more likely to find Amazon, Rackspace or Microsoft, which have an established presence and route to market," he said.