IBM to offer stamp of approval for cloud services

Aiming to boost its influence in cloud computing, IBM has announced a validation programme measuring the performance reliability of cloud-based services from any provider

IBM has announced a validation programme aimed at increasing the company's influence in the cloud-computing arena, by allowing businesses to evaluate the reliability of cloud-based applications and services from any provider.

The 'Resilient Cloud Validation' programme, announced on Monday, assesses cloud-based applications and services against a "rigorous, consistent and proven" set of benchmarking and design guidelines. The cloud-computing providers can only participate in the programme by approaching IBM. Those who are successful will be allowed to use an IBM logo that states: 'Resilient Cloud'.

Cloud computing is a model for services delivered over a network in which the user only sees the network and does not have to be concerned with any systems or infrastructure requirements, according to IBM. The company said that, because the cloud is subject to "unpredictable performance and some high-profile downtime and recovery events", there is a need for a way to reassure potential customers that cloud computing can be trusted. Typically, cloud computing covers the provision of enterprise applications and storage services online.

"Every cloud service provider has the same objective: [to] provide an uninterrupted flow of information for their business," Philippe Jarre, IBM general manager of business continuity and resiliency services, said in a statement. "Since these providers power other businesses, there is a 'network effect' of downtime, [and] it's absolutely critical to build to the highest standards of resiliency."

The cloud, in IBM's view, is a different way of looking at computer systems and architectures that provide hosted services. According to Julian Freedman of IBM's emerging-technologies group at the company's Hursley labs, it is about "more than just performance per watt", a standard measurement of computer efficiency.

"Cloud computing is a better way of doing things," Freedman told ZDNet UK. "We are used to looking at things vertically; with cloud computing, you look at them horizontally". Rather than looking at the processing power being rented, IBM's approach is to take a certain level of performance as a given and to look at whether systems can be relied on to perform when needed.

Freedman said IBM's business can only benefit from the cloud. "There is nothing new in the cloud if you look at software as a service, utility computing, grid computing — cloud computing is just a progression, and it is stuff we have done for a long time," he pointed out.

With the Resilient Cloud Validation programme, IBM is taking "a best-practice approach, so we are not starting from scratch", Freedman said. The company looked at its own hosting systems to see what has worked and not worked for hosted-services customers. According to IBM, the company has a mass of best-practice experience to draw on.

The company said it has 155 datacentres around the world, with teams available to evaluate any current cloud architectures that IBM customers may have already in place, and, in the words of the IBM statement, evaluate "resiliency best practices, identify, quantify and prioritise gaps and risks".

In a related announcement, IBM Global Business Services, seeking to capitalise on the rising popularity of internet-based storage and computing, will oversee the company's cloud-consulting services, aiming to provide customers with assessments as to whether building their own cloud, or transferring data and applications to a hybrid private-public cloud or a public cloud would be most cost-effective. IBM Global Business Services plans to aid customers in installing, configuring and delivering cloud-computing services in the datacentre.

The Resilient Cloud Validation programme will be initiated "in early 2009", the company said in its statement.

CNET's Dawn Kawamoto contributed to this article.