LONDON, Nov. 21, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE : IBM) today announced that it is adding four new cloud data centers infused with cognitive intelligence in the UK, to keep pace with growing client demand. The investment in the new facilities underscores IBM's long-standing commitment to providing innovative solutions to the UK market and triples its cloud center capacity in the UK.
"We are already among the most digitally connected countries in the world, with a globally successful digital economy worth more than £118billion a year and strong cyber security defences to protect consumers and business," said Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture. "Today's announcement by IBM is a further boost for this thriving area, and another vote of confidence which shows Britain is open for business. These new cloud data centers will help our firms work smarter and quicker to become the world-leading businesses of tomorrow."
Cloud adoption rates increased to 84% in the UK over the course of the last five years, according to Cloud Industry Forum. IDC forecasts that the global market opportunity for public cloud services will exceed $195 billion by 2020.1 The expansion strengthens IBM's ability to bring clients greater flexibility, transparency and control over how they manage data, run their businesses and deploy IT operations locally in the cloud.
These new facilities expand IBM's cloud data center footprint from two to six in the UK and 16 across Europe as part of IBM's network of more than 50 data centers worldwide. With these new data centers, clients have access to a complete portfolio of IBM cloud services for running their mission critical enterprise workloads and innovations through more than 150 digital services (APIs). These digital services are available via IBM's development platform, Bluemix and include Watson, IBM's cognitive intelligence technology that allows computers to think and learn like humans, building blocks for innovative Blockchain applications that increase trust in transactions, plus enabling technologies for Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics applications.
Thomson, part of TUI UK & Ireland, the UK's largest tour operator, is trialling a new travel search tool, which leverages Watson cognitive services on the IBM Cloud with its customers giving them the opportunity to find travel inspiration by interacting with the virtual travel assistant. The tool is a smart chatbot that interacts with consumers to provide real-time search results on travel destinations and holiday inquiries, such as "I want to visit local markets/ go on an adventure/ have a cultured holiday/ see exotic animals". Thomson is tapping into IBM's Cloud data center in the UK and leverages Watson APIs such as conversation, natural language classifier and speech-to-text. The experimental website gains insights and learns from data via frequent requests to provide more digital intelligence that matches customer requirements.
"By leveraging IBM's Cloud platform with Watson's cognitive intelligence we have raised the bar in the travel industry and delivered an interactive website to our digitally savvy customers in a fun and innovative way. We are excited to learn how customers interact and what they get out of the experience," said Jo Hickson, Head of Innovation, TUI UK&I.
IBM Cloud Expands Capabilities for Highly Regulated Industries in the UK and EU
IBM was first to offer cloud services to clients in the UK through an existing Cloud data center more than five years ago, which was swiftly followed by a second UK Cloud data center in 2014. IBM was recently cited as a "strong performer" in Forrester's latest Wave Report on global public cloud platforms in Europe. IBM also earned the highest possible score for its hybrid cloud strategy as well as the top ranking for IBM's infrastructure services.2
"By adding four new Cloud data centers in the UK, IBM is giving local businesses an easy route to the cloud, helping them quickly innovate and respond to market demands," said Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president of IBM Cloud. "IBM is continuing to invest in high growth areas, offering clients higher-value cloud data services such as Watson and Blockchain running on our cloud infrastructure that delivers world-class scalability, performance and security."
IBM client Armakuni, a provider to financial services and fintech, commented: "Data security and residency are two key concerns when considering use of cloud services in financial services. IBM's investment and expansion of their cloud data center footprint in the UK goes a long way to address these concerns and enables us to better serve UK customers securely."
IBM also signed an agreement to lease space within Ark Data Centres in the UK, which will see the second of the four new cloud data centers fully operational in mid-2017. Ark is the joint venture partner with the UK Government delivering public sector data center services under the Crown Hosting Framework. Crown Hosting, based in the same Ark facility, is already being used by a number of public sector departments and agencies.
IBM Cloud: A Focus on Quality, Performance, Innovation and Choice
Clients choosing IBM Cloud services will benefit from the company's experience across public, private and hybrid cloud deployments and easy access to cloud innovations on a simple pay-as-you-go model. Clients also benefit from services like load balancing, auto scaling, object storage, bandwidth pooling and Static IPs that are resilient across the cloud data centers in the UK. From migrating existing workloads to the cloud for the first time to supporting advanced applications that draw on High Performance Computing and cognitive technologies, IBM Cloud data centers are distinct in several ways:
- Modern Infrastructure: The new facilities are designed to provide users with the largest portfolio and pool of bare metal servers in the market delivering up to an 8X performance increase on database applications. This design also means clients can mix infrastructure resources, including bare metal servers, virtual servers, storage, and networking, to find the right balance for their workloads. These facilities will also offer users the latest IBM POWER and x86 processors, NVIDIA GPU accelerators, OpenPOWER-based servers, SAP HANA applications and IBM Bluemix development tools.
- Enhanced Network Performance: All IBM Cloud data centers connect to a global backbone network that enables seamless data transfer, lower latency, and more consistent network performance between cloud infrastructure and end users around the world. With this innovative network foundation, high-bandwidth apps and services like video streaming, database querying and HPC applications perform at their best.
- Next-Generation Data Center Capabilities: Clients using these facilities will also have access to IBM Watson, Blockchain, IoT and other leading cloud-based services through more than 150 open APIs. IBM provides a complete stack of cloud services with IaaS, PaaS and SaaS capabilities that can be accessed.
The new facilities provide clients greater flexibility, transparency and control over how they manage data, run business operations and deploy IT operations locally in the cloud. The facilities also connect to IBM's public data centers around the world to help clients transfer and replicate their data in multiple locations and quickly balance or reroute workloads between multiple locations.
UK Clients Already Benefitting from IBM Cloud
Hundreds of UK clients of all sizes are already taking advantage of the benefits IBM Cloud offers including Dixons Carphone, National Express, National Grid, Shop Direct, Travis Perkins PLC and Wimbledon.
Dixons Carphone, Europe's largest telecommunications retailer, migrated to IBM Cloud to integrate two distinct infrastructures following its 2014 merger, and enable easy scaling to better manage seasonal shopping trends. "One of the biggest IT challenges in the retail industry is performance, reliability and rapid scalability to manage the peaks and valleys of seasonal shopping trends. IBM's investment and expansion in the UK provides us with an even more seamless ecommerce and retail experience for our customers during these busy retail periods including holidays and new product launches," said David Hennessy, IT Director, Dixons Carphone.
IBM's Global Cloud Footprint
With more than 50 global cloud data centers, IBM helps companies securely manage and gain insight into their data no matter where it resides. The news also reinforces IBM strong cloud presence across Europe, and the additional facilities announced today uniquely position IBM as the market leader with more UK data centers than any other vendor. In September, IBM announced the opening of its first cloud data center in the Nordics. The addition of the new UK data center facilities will mark 16 IBM data centers across Europe.
The new UK facilities will enable companies of all sizes to digitize business and operations and drive innovation through the IBM Cloud. The first facility will open in Fareham at the end of December, with three more opening in the UK next year.
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1 IDC Worldwide Semiannual Public Cloud Services Spending Guide, 10th August 2016
2 The Forrester Wave: Enterprise Public Cloud Platforms in Europe, Q4 2016