Big Blue announces a series of steps that build on its SoftLayer acquisition with the release of new cloud-based business services. 

In June, IBM spent US$ 2 billion buying cloud computing firm SoftLayer to help boost its ability to deliver services, and these new announcements feature the roll out of several new services offered through the SoftLayer Infrastructure. Rather than competing with, say, Amazon or Rackspace in providing infrastructure or other basic computing resources in the cloud, IBM intends to continue focusing on providing business services.

IBM announced that its SoftLayer Infrastructure will act as the foundation for providing its Cloud Portfolio, which the company described as the “industry’s largest SaaS portfolio.” More than 100 services are provided, including new services announced this week.

Social Learning, Xtify

The company said it is in the process of moving its Cloud Portfolio to the SoftLayer Infrastructure, beginning with the open standards-based Social Learning platform, which is designed to share knowledge and expertise via real-time videos. IBM gives the use case example of doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital sharing training videos about life-saving techniques in child care with clinicians in other countries.

This move will be accompanied by a commercialization of the Social Learning platform that, beginning in December, will expand its use as a service to such industries as retail, energy and utilities, government, healthcare and automotive.

Another service, also running on SoftLayer, will utilize the technology IBM acquired when it bought Xtify, a provider of online mobile messaging tools that are designed to boost mobile sales, increase in-store traffic and provided personalized offers to customers.

Mobile Feedback, Survey Analytics

Other offerings in its expanding Cloud Portfolio are intended to appeal to Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Human Resource Officers and Chief Information Officers. One, being launched this week, is a new, cloud-based Mobile Feedback App that allows executives to quickly get the opinions of their staff, which IBM said could be used to support informed decisions on productivity, retention rates and employee engagement.

A new Survey Analytics app pulls millions of pieces of anonymous, unstructured data from Kenexa surveys of an organization's employees, and then uses analytics to present sentiment “heat maps” so that executives can better understand the thinking in their workforce.

Other new services includes the availability of the IBM SmartCloud for Social Business that utilizes the company’s enterprise social software, automated updates for pricing for merchandisers using IBM’s DemandTec solutions, and real-time personalization for digital marketers to improve customer engagement. The personalization analyzes such info as what products consumers are browsing or putting into their online carts, in order to make cross-sell suggestions or to deliver promotions.

Private, Hybrid Cloud

Big Blue also introduced this week several new solutions for building private and hybrid clouds. The new, single chassis IBM PureFlex System -- Express is a hardware and systems management software solution targeted at SMBs, and an Enterprise version, with selectable rack sizes, is intended to be scalable for larger cloud deployments.

For desktop virtualization, there’s now the PureFlex Solution for SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure, utilizing x86 or POWER processor compute nodes in a pre-configured software, servers and storage integrated system. It can employ virtualization platforms from Citrix, Microsoft or VMware.

For service providers, a new Power Systems Solution Edition offers an OpenStack-based, pre-built cloud solution, utilizing IBM’s PowerVC for OpenStack implementations that provides virtualization management for optimizing resources, delivered through a Power Systems enterprise platform. IBM has been a leader in promoting the adoption of the open source OpenStack cloud platform. A new PowerVP offers real-time, graphical display of virtualization performance, and, for those employing Linux, the Power Integrated Facility for Linux is designed to improve the use of IBM’s enterprise-class Power servers.

Focus on Business Services

In a post this week on the IBM blog on Cloud Products and Services, IBM platform configuration architect Franz Freidrich Liebinger Portela gave an overview about how his company sees the cloud landscape (so to speak) from an operations perspective.

He identified four main areas where cloud providers are offering solutions to meet businesses’ needs -- business process as a service, software as a service, platform as a service and infrastructure as a service.

IBM's cloud solutions in the first two categories now include business process-as-a-service, such as Intelligent Back Office for Government; buying, procurement and sourcing; marketing and Web analytics; selling and merchandising; its Smarter Cities initiative; social business; and smarter analytics.

While the company obviously continues to provide cloud-oriented solutions for IT, on the cloud front IBM is putting a great deal of emphasis on its business services, given that IT deployment -- especially cloud-based infrastructure -- may be becoming a commodity, where price is the key differentiator.