IBM has been talking a good cloud game for the last year or so. They have clearly demonstrated that they understand what cloud computing is, what customers want from it and have put forth a variety of offerings and engagements to help customers head down this path – mostly through internal cloud and strategic rightsourcing options. But its public cloud efforts, outside of application hosting have been a bit of wait and see. Well the company is clearly getting its act together in the public cloud space with today’s announcement of the Smart Business Development and Test Cloud, a credible public Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering. This new service is an extension of its developerWorks platform and gives its users a virtual environment through which they can assemble, integrate and validate new applications. Pricing on the service is as you would expect from an IaaS offering (and free for a limited time). If you are testing with IBM software you can either bring your licenses or check out the equivalent instances from their service catalog. There’s even a new version of Rational Software Delivery Services for shops familiar with Jazz.

And as you would expect, IBM is offering an in-house version in case you just won’t use a public, multitenant cloud service – even for test and development purposes. While built from the same platform so you can blend public and internal, be prepared for the in-house version to be a bit harder to use, though, as you will either have to assemble the parts yourself and climb the operational learning curve, or ask IBM to build and run it for you. This isn’t as simple a solution as VMware Lab Manager

IBM is also directing its ISV partners to this cloud environment for their own testing, such as IBM product integration, and proof of concept purposes. This could be a boon for smaller ISVs and serve as a safe, low-cost place for early collaboration with large enterprises. Particularly as IBM claims it will be providing support for specific security configurations – although this is vague as of today.

Certainly any IaaS can be used for test and development purposes so IBM isn’t breaking new ground here. But its off to a solid start with stated support from test and dev specialist partners SOASTA, VMLogix, AppFirst and Trinity Software bring their tools to the IBM test cloud. For Big Blue's installed base, who want to use IBM software and in particular Rational, this is a welcome new offering. It also feeds the IBM learning engine which will be able to refine this offering based on customer feedback and use this knowledge to feed a future larger IaaS offering and hook this to its on-premise CloudBurst integrated solution. Such a move would finally let this solution live up to its name.