Cloud computing is one of IBM’s top priorities and Latin America has gained importance in this area of late. The tech giant recently signed an agreement with Finep, a Brazilian innovation agency linked to the Ministry of Science and Technology, to develop a platform as a service (PaaS) to manage cloud resources more efficiently and in real time.
The project was selected in the latest public announcement for the IT Maior program, which aims to promote the development of software and technology products in Brazil. Under the three-year contract IBM will receive 5.7 million Brazilian real (almost US$ 2.4 million) from Finep in return for development of the basic system, optimization and testing. IBM will also invest its own financial resources in this project.
The project will be designed by IBM Research Brazil in collaboration with Brazilian and foreign universities. “The use of this technology is a novelty in the world and the project will involve other IBM Research centers,” said Marco Aurelio Stelmar Netto, researcher at IBM Research Brazil.
The idea is to develop a cloud platform that will automatically manage resources according to business objectives and financial restrictions defined by individual companies. “Without the platform, companies currently spend more to access high performance resources that do not have the specialties they require,” Netto explained.
A Virtual World
Much of what is available today on the cloud market is based on virtual machines, and most applications hosted on the cloud are focused on data production and consumption, including retail purchase sites, blogs, traffic and weather data collection sites. These are applications that can be run on virtual machines, as they offer a good cost-benefit ratio for consumers.
However, there is another large range of applications that could be hosted on the cloud, requiring expert, high-performance computing resources that are managed in a more complex way. For instance, a company seeking to provide a cloud-based transportation management service could offer customized routes to users, depending on their preferences and activities. This service could also be run on a set of traditional virtual machines but – under unexpected circumstances that require rapid processing of all routes in a region affected by an emergency – processing could be quickly completed by specialized machines to meet that specific emergency demand.
The solution will benefit businesses of all sizes, as well as universities and government agencies, helping them at times of critical demand, mainly in peak hours. “Many small companies can’t use the cloud to host the applications because they haven’t got high-performance machines to do this. This technology will allow the processing of a large amount of data at a lower cost,” Netto said. On the other hand, large companies with supercomputers can access this platform to reduce costs. “The company would enter its specific needs and based on that information the platform that we will develop will automatically determine if it is possible or worthwhile to use these resources,” Netto added.
The technology can be applied in a variety of segments in Brazil, including agriculture, healthcare, finance, city management and education, among others. “This solution can be applied, for example, to traffic data management in cities,” Netto explained.
The technology can also be applied to the management of natural resources, such as in the oil and gas sector or to forecast the weather and flooding. Another IBM focus in Brazil is the financial market, especially banks, which require specialized and sophisticated solutions to manage large amounts of data and facilitate the making of decisions.
In the Clouds
Cloud computing is one of IBM’s main focuses, not only in Brazil but in the world. Since 2007, IBM has invested US$7 billion in the acquisition of companies related to the cloud. The most important deal was the acquisition of SoftLayer, in June of 2013, a company that provides cloud infrastructure as a service from 13 data centers in the United States and Asia.
Last year, IBM opened three data centers in Latin America focused on cloud computing. In January, it announced US$1.2 billion in investments in data centers focused on cloud and will soon open two SoftLayer data centers in Latin America: one in Brazil and another in Mexico.
In Brazil, IBM has invested 40 million Brazilian real (almost US$18 million) in a Point of Delivery (POD) center dedicated to cloud computing solutions for enterprises in Hortolândia, in the state of Sao Paulo. IBM Research Brazil had previously been selected by Finep in 2011 to develop a project related to the application of technology focused on accessibility.
Twenty-eight projects were selected in the latest public tender of the IT Maior program. Each company will receive a capital injection of 700,000 to 10 million Brazilian real (US$4.5 million) from Finep, totaling 79.6 million Brazilian real (US$35.86 million) in financial subsidies.
The program contemplated different sectors such as cloud computing; software for the oil, gas and mining sectors; cyber defense; semiconductor and electronics devices and aerospace. Of the chosen projects, nine are focused on cloud computing.
“Sotfware as a service (SaaS) is something already quite established in Brazil. The aim is to encourage national companies to develop a platform to host cloud applications. With this, other companies can access this platform to host their application and reduce their costs with IT and data centers,” said Rodrigo Octavio, project analyst at Finep.