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 EUIBM 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."