By Jim Finkle
BOSTON (Reuters)—IBM plans to launch several cloud computing services this year, taking on companies such as Amazon.com Inc, Google Inc, Microsoft Corp and Salesforce.com Inc.
International Business Machines Corp spokeswoman Kelly Sims said on Thursday the first of these new services will enable developers to write software that works with the emerging, Web-based technology.
Cloud computing systems run software and store information in remote, large-scale data centers that users and programmers access over the Internet.
IBM, the world's biggest technology services company, has lagged behind younger companies in rolling out cloud services. But it is still early days for the cloud industry, which Gartner Research estimates will ring up sales of about $3.4 billion this year. IBM, by comparison, reported revenue of $103 billion last year, according to Reuters Estimates.
Business interest in cloud computing has picked up since Amazon started offering storage and computing services over the Web about three years ago. Google and Salesforce.com are the other two early leaders.
"Is this important to IBM? Yes," said Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett. "But what IBM is doing is not about suddenly grabbing gigantic new revenue streams. Honestly what IBM and others are doing is a lot of elbowing and throwing of guerrilla dust and trying to win perceived market leadership."
IBM got its feet wet in the field last year when it launched an Internet-based data backup and recovery service.
In addition to the new service for developers, IBM also plans to introduce clouds that let businesses run applications and to virtualize personal computers, Sims said.
Like IBM, Microsoft is viewed as having been slow to enter the field. It plans to launch its cloud services platform, dubbed Azure, late this year or early in 2010.
IBM's technology was developed using some know-how obtained through a partnership with Google to develop cloud services for academic computing that dates back to 2007, she said.
The U.S. National Science Foundation announced on Thursday it has awarded about $5 million in grants to universities that are developing applications on that IBM-Google academic cloud.
"IBM is applying those skills for the commercial offerings that will be launched in 2009," Sims said.
(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Andre Grenon)
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