IBM and business partner Juniper Networks have announced hybrid network-based services.
Companies using a "private cloud", or internal network services modelled on the internet, will now be able to assign applications to the "public cloud", or public internet services, from a centrally managed console, called the IBM Cloud Management Console.
IBM said in a statement on Tuesday that this "overflow cloud" capability will allow customers to prioritise applications when resources become constrained.
Juniper and IBM are working on installing this capability into IBM's nine Cloud Labs, which are the company's network of cloud infrastructure and customer liaison centres. IBM said this will help it better achieve service-level agreements, as customer workloads can be switched between the centres.
Cloud services have been popularised by companies such as Google and Amazon, offering services such as managed email provision and collaborative tools via the internet. Gartner fellow Daryl Plummer told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that IBM's announcement is a move to compete in this area.
"IBM is trying to get in on the game, to catch up with established cloud suppliers like Amazon. The Juniper collaboration allows IBM to extend its cloud-computing platform to give cloud elasticity", Plummer said.
IBM also announced increments to its cloud services on Tuesday. Customers will be able to discuss and launch services using IBM's Infrastructure Strategy and Planning for Cloud Computing, a strategy workshop. The workshop will augment the Infrastructure Consulting Services for Cloud Computing, introduced last year. Meanwhile, IBM's new Design and Implementation for Cloud Test Environments will allow customers to build and test cloud platforms in their networks.
The company also launched its Service Management Center for Cloud Computing, a suite that pulls together existing products, including Tivoli Provisioning Manager 7.1 and Tivoli Service Automation Manager. These applications allow IT professionals to automate and manage cloud provisioning.
In October, research firm IDC predicted that spending on cloud computing services will triple over the next five years, and that it will be a $42bn (£29bn) market by 2012. One of the opportunities it identified for large IT vendors was the provision of tools for customers to develop and use a variety of business cloud services.
Some analysts have cautioned that while cloud computing does bring business benefits, companies should be careful to identify its best use in their operations. Tom Austin, head of software research at analyst firm Gartner, told ZDNet UK recently that while it would be a " fatal mistake" to ignore how cloud computing can help raise staff productivity and reduce costs, it probably works best as a complement to in-house systems. "You can't ignore it, but also don't fall in love with it because, like everything, it has its place," he said.
IBM is also offering a managed online backup service for desktops and laptops. It will now provide Tivoli Storage Manager Continuous Data Protection for Files, already on sale as standalone software, as a cloud-based service, hosted through its Business Continuity and Resiliency Services.