By Michael Eggebrecht
IBM has signed consumer electronics company Panasonic to what it is calling the largest cloud computing deal yet.
Under the contract, Panasonic will be migrating its employees off of Microsoft Exchange and onto IBM’s LotusLive hosted e-mail and collaboration platform. Initially, 100,000 Pansonic employees will move over to LotusLive, with more than 200,000 more worldwide staffers, partners and suppliers expected to follow.
“LotusLive is an integral vehicle for our employees to truly function as a globally integrated enterprise,” said Mitsuhiro Aoyama, Panasonic’s VP of corporate information systems, in a statement. “It will allow us to work securely with our extended enterprise of Panasonic partners and customers as if they were all in the same location, bringing the promise of quicker, more efficient teamwork and commerce worldwide.”
Sean Poulley, VP of cloud collaboration at IBM, added that Panasonic, which was one of the 100 largest companies in the world last year, according to Forbes, “would only make this strategic move with the assurance that their daily business workflow will be safeguarded from costly interruptions and intrusions as millions of existing LotusLive users know.”
The company’s deal with Panasonic -- financial terms were not announced -- includes Web conferencing, instant messaging and file sharing, among other services.
IBM launched its cloud-based LotusLive service in October 2009, with prices starting at $3 per user per month for e-mail. According to IBM, there are currently 18 million users.
On Wednesday, Cassio De Oliveira, Panasonic’s CIO for the Americas, told Reuters that his company plans to sign additional contracts to outsource other key parts of its IT infrastructure.
IBM’s announcement comes on the heels of the Jan. 13 unveiling of a three-year agreement between HP and Microsoft to invest $250 million in developing and integrating cloud computing technologies.
The companies say they plan to “collaborate on an engineering road map for data management machines; converged, pre-packaged application solutions; comprehensive virtualization offerings; and integrated management tools.” Under the agreement, Microsoft will use HP’s hardware to support its Azure cloud computing platform, while HP provides services for Azure.
“This agreement, which spans hardware, software and services, will enable business customers to optimize performance with push-button simplicity at the lowest possible total cost of ownership,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “Our extended partnership will transform the way large enterprises deliver services to their customers, and help smaller organizations adopt IT to grow their businesses.”
IBM’s Poulley told Forbes that the announcement of its contract with Panasonic was not related to the new agreement between Microsoft and HP. “The deal was inked in November and for a variety of reasons this just happened to be the right time to announce it,” he said.
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