IBM is ramping up its cloud-computing activities with a push into services to help businesses develop and test their own clouds.
In an announcement on Tuesday, IBM unveiled a set of cloud products and services as part of its Smart Business brand, with an initial focus on cloud development and virtual desktops.
The company said the average enterprise devotes 30 to 50 percent of its technology infrastructure to development and testing, but typically up to 90 percent of it remains idle.
"Software developers lose a massive amount of time and productivity getting permissions and access to the systems and tools they need to do their jobs," said the IBM statement.
IBM is offering three cloud development and test services. The first is a beta service that allows firms to run and test software on an IBM cloud. The second, IBM Smart Business Test Cloud, is a private cloud built by IBM inside a company's firewall.
Finally, IBM CloudBurst is a set of integrated hardware, storage, virtualisation and networking products with a built-in service management system.
IBM's focus on development mirrors moves by Microsoft with Azure and Google with App Engine. David Mitchell, senior vice president of IT research at consulting firm Ovum, compares the present state of play in cloud computing to the early days of client-server applications.
"The vendors that ended up grabbing the biggest market share in the end were those who got the developer mindset early on. Microsoft, IBM and Oracle all put in a huge effort to win over developers. We are in the same battleground here," said Mitchell.
"He who wins the heart of the developer as we head into the cloud will have a bigger share of the pie later on," he added.
Mitchell said development is an area where organisations traditionally over-provision IT and waste money.
"They buy their operations box and perhaps some disaster recovery, but then during the development phase there are dozens of test environments, multiple development environments and integration test environments," Mitchell said.
"I have known organisations have over 100 different environments running during the development phases. All of those cost money to acquire, to run and power up, so if there is any way you can just rent the capacity in the cloud when you need it, that is a very good economic case," he added.
Mitchell said the IBM services also addressed the problem of the complexity of development. "If you have ever tried to install a set of development tools, get your application running and properly configured, and your database below that, and then all the categories of server — you can spend ages just knitting it all together before you actually do any coding. If you can rent it off the shelf pre-wired, it's a great time-saver."
IBM is also offering to host virtual desktops in a business's datacentre in a private cloud or on its own cloud. The company said this service significantly reduces power consumption, simplifies management and can cut lower-end support costs by up to 40 percent, compared with conventional desktop systems.