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IBM, Microsoft Dive Deep Into Clouds

IBM/Microsoft cloud story updated with information on Dell's $1 billion cloud investment.

SAN FRANCISCO ( TheStreet) -- IBM (IBM - Get Report) ramped up its enterprise cloud efforts at a company event for CIOs Thursday, unveiling new products and teaming up with firms like Lockheed Martin (LMT) and Citigroup (C) to develop cloud standards.

Clouds are buzzing ... again. IBM's move comes a day after cloud rival Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) announced a $12 million partnership with Toyota (TM) that will use Windows Azure to develop in-car, digital information services for Toyota's hybrid and plug-in vehicles.

IBM talked about its SmartCloud refresh, intended to improve customers' ability to manage applications on public clouds. "We have added enhancements for the enterprise," Ric Telford, IBM's vice president of cloud services, told TheStreet. Users, he said, can now continually adjust the levels of security, privacy and availability for apps running in the cloud.

IBM claims that this could cut the time spent deploying applications from days to minutes, which is increasingly important as companies push more and more apps into the cloud.

IBM is also juicing its efforts around private clouds, which companies access via VPNs. The tech giant showed off its Workload Developer software, which deploys a cloud app to multiple physical servers simultaneously.

"Before, you would have had to configure and install the application on each server independently," said Telford. "That's a big, time-consuming step."

Given cloud computing's relative cloudy standing with a lot of tech, IBM is also focusing attention on the lack of available standards for the technology, and is forming a customer council to address concerns around cloud management, security, compliance and hybrid clouds. The group includes Lockheed Martin, Citigroup, ADP (ADP) and insurance giant State Street (STT).

Telford told TheStreet that IBM expects cloud to be become the "normal" method for delivering IT services by 2015. "We see this technology wave becoming mainstream now in enterprises," he said, adding that IBM has seen its users overcoming initial security concerns about the technology.

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