smartcloud It wasn’t more than two years ago that during an IBM conference I discovered IBM had no less than nine independent global “Cloud” initiatives. Since then, IBM has concentrated more squarely on a primary goal to produce a unique and singular public infrastructure service for the enterprise.  In 2012, IBM’s SmartCloud will become one of the best and most comprehensive cloud service offerings to date. But within this service there are multiple offerings.  Let’s break down the different services available in IBM’s SmartCloud Enterprise.

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IBM SmartCloud Enterprise+

IBM’s largest cloud service offering is the SmartCloud Enterprise and Enterprise+, with Enterprise+ being available in the United States early 2012 (a global deployment is planned for by the end of 2012). IBM SmartCloud Enterprise+ offers a cost-effective scalable cloud infrastructure; in other words, the Enterprise+ and SmartCloud Enterprise are both a cloud model known as an infrastructure as a service (or IaaS).

In an IaaS model, the client is paying for a cloud service offering that is housed, ran and maintained by a separate owner; in this case, IBM. This cloud offering allows a company to have a method of creating, updating, maintaining and even scaling an enterprise-wide system without the cost-prohibitive task of purchasing the hardware to make this possible.

So what exactly does that mean in terms of IBM’s SmartCloud? With Enterprise and Enterprise+, IBM is offering companies of all sizes a way to host enterprise-class, security-rich and cost-saving private clouds that aide in business growth. To put it another way, Enterprise and Enterprise+ are the base of a pyramid, the foundation of a structure that must be sound and sturdy before anymore building (i.e. business growth) can happen. And if the infrastructure is the base, then the next phase of construction is the platform.

IBM SmartCloud Application Services

Sitting nicely between IaaS and SaaS is the type of cloud offering known as platform as a service (PaaS). And IBM recently made a big move with the recent launch of their PaaS offerings. This new service allows enterprises to take advantages of a set of cloud-delivered services while still being able to have control over development, deployment, management and integration.

In our pyramid analogy, IBM’s Application Services sit right on top of the foundation. It provides a set of automated services and tools that can be customizable to your business’ unique needs. The service offerings include enterprise-grade security, Java and cross-platform support with no vendor lock-in. Run on the SmartCloud Enterprise and Enterprise+ (the IaaS foundation), they are designed for enterprise workloads. Other application services include application lifecycle, resources, environments, management and integration services.

Smaller software offerings

For businesses to take true advantage of IBM’s SmartCloud Enterprise, they need to find both standard and custom solutions that work with their specific needs. So to complete the pyramid (i.e. tailor the technology system to a company’s unique plan), the “builders” must top off their work with the right software for completion. And IBM’s solution in this instance is the third and final cloud offering, the software as a service model (SaaS).

In the SaaS model, businesses can plug in a ready-made application to get them up-and-running in a certain area. In what is called a “vertical solution”, IBM’s service offerings include customer relationship management software (CRM), human resources (HR) applications, and financial applications. Instead of overhauling your current system with an IaaS model or doing major tweaks with a PaaS option, integrating software for a specific need is a quick fix to a persistent issue.

With the options available and the many advantages to each, I’m sure there is one question that comes to mind when considering a cloud:

Which cloud model is right for your business?

And that depends on the kind of solution you’re looking for. If you’re happy with your current system and just want to beef up a few departmental needs, a SaaS solution will to the trick. If you’re ready go from a paper-based system (complete with file cabinets and copy machines) to something that’s entirely housed on the web, investing in an IaaS cloud service model can save you countless amounts in both hardware and physical space. If you’re somewhere in between – a solid infrastructure in place but nothing more – then using a PaaS cloud offering to customize what’s on top of your sturdy foundation is a good option.

With IBM’s wide array of cloud service offerings, most companies will find the hardware, platform and/or software they need to grow their business. In addition to their excellent customer support, IBM offers a trusted unmatched speed and a trusted infrastructure that can help you take your business to the next level.