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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  • 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.

  • One image dominated the presentation screen for most of the day at the IBM Cloud Centre: one outlining Blue Cloud, its infrastructure cloud computing. It can be noted that while IBM has its own virtualisation software for Unix and PC systems, and it also supports Xen Server.

    "There are only three companies that are leading cloud computing: IBM, Google and Amazon", according to Joe Clabby of analyst firm Clabby Analytics.

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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