IBM spends $300 million on data centers with 'virtual workplaces'

Today, IBM announced a $300 million investment around building upon its 154 existing data centers in 2008, with the addition of 13 new "Business Resilience" service delivery centers in ten countries, including the US.

The new data centers will be located in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area in the US and in emerging markets elsewhere in the world, said Brian Reagan, IBM's director of business continuity and resiliency strategy, in an interview with BetaNews.

Like some of IBM's current data centers, particularly those in metropolitan areas, the new centers will combine "virtual workplaces" -- or complete replications of users' call centers, trading desks, and other desktop environments -- with more traditional data center functions such as server redundancy and recovery, he said.

These virtual workplaces are available for physical access by customers' work forces -- up to thousands of seats -- in the event of either man-made or physical disaster.

"We 'wrapper' their work environment and transparently move it for them. This gives them an alternate location for their work presence," BetaNews was told.

Reagan maintained that one reason behind IBM's geographic expansion is to help overcome the historic resistance of many organizations to housing their data off-site.

In over 40 years of data center experience, he contended, IBM has never lost any customer data. "But most data loss is caused by either human error or system failure. So data loss is certainly a valid concern for customers," Reagan said.

"We want our customers to feel secure that their data is not being moved all over the globe, or something. So we are keeping it close at hand for them."

IBM is also focusing on offering customers a wide range of different kinds of options, according to Reagan. Unlike some other vendors' services, which use only their own networks for "cloud computing," IBM provides a choice of Internet-based "public clouds" and "private clouds" on the IBM Global Network, for example.

Other technologies in place at IBM's "Business Resilience" Centers include virtualization approaches from VMware, Xen, and a number of other vendors; 128-bit and 256-bit encryption; data vault technology obtained through IBM's buyout of Arsenal; and IBM Tivoli products for storage and network management, including FastBack, a new backup and recovery solution based on technology gained through IBM's FilesX acquisition.

IBM's data centers also draw on innovations developed by IBM Research, including new technology for combining data recovery with system level recovery, BetaNews was told. Current customers for IBM's data centers run the gamut from Enterprise Rent-A-Car and direct marketing firm Info USA, to a major bank in the UK, Reagan said.

Reagan also told BetaNews that IBM will continue to expand its number of data centers well beyond 2008, although he isn't sure how many more will ultimately be added.

Outside of the US, locations now being eyed by IBM include London; Hong Kong; Tokyo; Paris; Brussels; Warsaw, Poland; Milan, Italy; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Beijing and Shanghai, China; South Africa; and India, for instance.

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