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IBM to triple size of UK datacentre footprint by opening four new sites in 2017

Big blue claims datacentre expansion plans represent its largest country-specific cloud datacentre investment to date

IBM is tripling its cloud datacentre capacity in the UK by opening four new facilities, with the firm hailing the move as its single biggest country-specific show of cloud commitment to date.

The company has signed a series of colocation deals, including one with public sector-focused provider Ark Data Centres, to expand its UK cloud datacentre capacity from two sites to six.

IBM said it expects all four sites to come online in 2017. They will be used to provide UK enterprises with local access to the company’s entire cloud portfolio, which includes its Softlayer Infrastructure as a Service offering and its Bluemix app development platform.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Helen Kelisky, vice-president of cloud at IBM UK and Ireland, said its UK datacentre investments are geared towards satisfying the soaring enterprise demand the company is seeing for both traditional and more innovative cloud services.

“We can see the demand for cloud is soaring,” she said. “IDC said the global cloud market in 2015 was worth $70bn, and is predicting it will reach $195bn by 2020. IDC is saying it, but we are seeing it.

“Our decision to invest in the UK is based on the surge in customer demand we are seeing. We recognised it a number of years ago [with our first UK datacentres], which is why we have been here a long time.”

In reference to the surge in demand for IBM is seeing, she said the cloud needs of enterprises are expanding beyond “traditional” hosting and infrastructure services, whereby moving to cloud is solely viewed as a means of cutting IT costs.

Read more about UK datacentre builds

“Data and innovation is where IBM sees the cloud market going, so it is broadening out from cost savings to services that can give companies real differentiation and allow our clients to use cloud for growth,” she said.

“Our cloud platform is helping clients have their data where they want it. Then there are the services that go on top of that, which we are driving around Blockchain, Watson and the internet of things.”

Kelisky cites UK-based tour operator Thomson as an example of a company drawing on IBM Watson’s cloud capabilities to help its customers find holidays that more closely match their requirements by using a real-time, chatbot-based search tool.

“The application is based on Bluemix, and was developed in our Bluemix garage in London,” she said. “It uses Watson APIs, including conversation and natural language classifiers, to allow customers to receive holiday destination matches based on natural language requests.”

Location, location, location

The first of these two datacentres will be in Fareham, near Portsmouth. The second is due to come online in mid-2017, and will be located at Ark Data Centres’ facility in Farnborough.

“Ark have their joint venture with the Cabinet Office, Crown Hosting, in Farnborough,” said Kelisky. “We are building Softlayer in a datacentre next door, and we will be going to market together with Ark.”

The arrangement should help reinforce IBM’s standing among public sector cloud users, with the company set to draw on Ark’s network resources to secure deals.

“The key thing for us is the networks, as Ark has access to N3 for health, PSN and Janet for education, and we will be right there plugging into those,” she said.

The remaining two sites will also be in the south-east of England, IBM confirmed, with confirmation of their locations due in 2017.

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