IBM buys SoftLayer as part of public cloud push

The company also announced the formation of a new division

IBM has signed an agreement to acquire SoftLayer Technologies, as it looks to accelerate the build-out of its public cloud infrastructure. The company is also forming a services division to back up the push.

The financial details of the deal were not announced, but SoftLayer is the world's largest privately held cloud computing infrastructure provider, according to IBM.

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IBM already has an offering that includes private, public and hybrid cloud platforms. The acquisition of SoftLayer will give it a more complete in-house offering, as enterprises look to keep some applications in the data center, while others are moved to public clouds.

SoftLayer has about 21,000 customers and an infrastructure that includes 13 data centers in the U.S., Asia and Europe, according to IBM. SoftLayer allows enterprises to buy compute power on either dedicated or shared servers.

Following the close of the acquisition of SoftLayer, which is expected in the third quarter, a new division will combine its services with IBM's SmartCloud. IBM expects to reach US$7 billion annually in cloud revenue by the end of 2015, it said.

Success is far from certain: the public cloud market is becoming increasingly competitive as dedicated cloud providers, telecom operators and IT vendors such as Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard all want a piece. The growing competition should be a good thing for customers if it drives down prices. For example, Microsoft has already committed to matching Amazon Web Services prices for commodity services such as computing, storage and bandwidth.

Not all hardware vendors feel it's necessary to have their own public cloud. Last month, Dell changed strategy and said it would work with partners including Joyent, instead of having its own cloud.

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