Inside IBM's only European Cloud Centre

Inside IBM's only European Cloud Centre

Summary: A visit inside IBM's cloud-computing facility in Dublin, where the lack of hardware belies the efforts to experiment with crunching data in the cloud


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  • The IBM Ireland campus is used to having many visitors, and the manager of the facility said that the traffic had begun to increase thanks to the cloud business.

    The reason the Irish facility was chosen by IBM for a Cloud Centre was partly down to the presence of the University of Dublin (home of Trinity College) and partly because of stiff lobbying by Michael Martin, Ireland's former Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment, according to the worldwide head of IBM's cloud effort, Willy Chui.

    "Ireland has a very good educational structure," Chui told ZDNet UK, "and the minister here was important in that choice." He said there was "good support" from the Irish Development Authority.

    IBM's campus in Dublin has eight large buildings, and it turned part of one of them over to cloud computing to create its Cloud Centre. The centre is host to people from all over Europe, according to Kristof Kloeckner, vice-president of cloud computing at IBM and the man who was until recently, head of IBM's cloud business.

    "We are exploring with customers to find and develop new ideas," he told ZDNet UK. "A particular area we are exploring is service management, for example."

    Kloeckner believes that cloud computing's biggest differentiators are its scalability and its ability to provide "delivery as a service", where customers turn their tasks over to IBM for work in the Cloud Centre, and "self-service", where customers perform their own tasks. These are areas that IBM teams are actively exploring, he said.

    The IBM cloud infrastructure around the world is composed of nine Cloud Centres and six Customer Centres, the latter available for customers to run their own cloud applications, he said.

  • IBM has been experimenting for some time with cloud customers, the company said. Shown here is an experiment which is intended to help a range of individuals, groups and organisations involved in Ireland's thriving fishing industry.

    The Smartbay project deals with activities in Galway Bay, in the west of Ireland. The aim is to make a cloud application that pulls in various sources of information on the industry, to help those involved in it. The parties participating in the experiment include fishermen, the fisheries authorities, the tourist board, the Irish Water Board and the Meterological Office. All of these people and organisations are collecting information that other people and groups would find useful. This data is gathered together. then put into the cloud and made available to all.

    The dashboard shown here shows the different information available. None of the data is fixed, and the dashboards can be changed to reflect the interests of the user. The data is available is real time.

    "One of the ideas we are experimenting on is looking at how we can update the information on fish," explained one of the researchers. "At different times, conditions in the sea and in the weather patterns will make it an ideal time to fish certain types. So wouldn't it be great if at those times we could notify the fisherman by radio, or even on their mobile phones, that for the next two or three days it would be a good time to go and fish in a particular area? That is what we are working on."

    The researchers see applications like Smartbay as a way for the cloud to pay for itself in the long term, while still being a comprehensive research tool.

  • There is nothing very high-tech-looking about the Cloud Centre. In the main, it looks like any other place for holding seminars.

    IBM said a number of times during our visit that it sees the cloud in every part of everything that it does as a company, and that it is looking for any application that can have a useful role in it.

    For example, IBM is looking at using the cloud to handle data tasks for large-scale, complex graphics, such as those used in modern animated movies. The company explained there are two parts to producing high-quality animation: the main processing and the rendering of the images. Of the two, the rendering is the heavier task, and this can routinely take a lot of time to complete, even when done by modern supercomputers.

    IBM is working on the theory that the cloud could allow this work to be spread around many systems. Large numbers of small computers gathered in its cloud could produce the next animated blockbuster at less cost than a supercomputer.

Topic: Cloud


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

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