The IT giant's partners will be able to access IBM's cloud technologies and test new cloud services at the new lab. Although the lab is based at its Innovation Centre in Hursley, near Winchester, the partners can access the lab virtually from any of IBM's 38 innovation centres worldwide.
"The new Cloud Computing Lab will help our partners gain the skills they need to build business applications and services for the cloud using IBM technologies," said Jim Corgel, general manager of IBM Independent Software Vendor and developer relations.
According to IBM, a typical project at the lab would involve IBM helping a partner explore a wide variety of cloud computing models. Depending on their businesses, they can also learn to become cloud builders, application, technology and infrastructure providers, or cloud resellers and aggregators. The lab will also help the partners develop a go-to-market plan.
For example, Maxima, an IT business systems and managed services company and IBM business partner, recently signed an agreement IBM to deliver business applications, hosted on IBM's cloud, to its 1,400 mid-market customers across Europe, the US and Asia. Maxima will also market cloud services through its Maxima Reseller Portal, to allow customers and resellers to use and market business applications via the portal.
Experts based at the lab will include those from IBM's Cast Iron development team, who will help partners connect on-premise and cloud computing environments for their clients. Cast Iron was an integration-as-a-service company that IBM acquired earlier this year.
The new lab opening follows IBM's launch of Europe's first cloud computing centre in Dublin, back in March 2008. More recently, IBM released a package of products and services, aimed at telecom service providers, to help them deliver cloud offerings to business customers.
Separately, Microsoft has announced a partnership with the University of Nottingham on its digital economy research project, called Horizon.
Under the partnership, Microsoft will provide the university with three years of free usage of its Windows Azure cloud computing platform, and access to Microsoft researchers and developers to help the university create a set of common tools and applications that can be shared with the wider academic community.
Horizon is funded by the Research Councils UK Digital Economy programme, and aims to investigate how new digital technologies can transform how we work, live and play.
"Cloud computing is one of these technical advances that is already transforming business, and there is much more to come," said Derek McAuley, director of Horizon.
Microsoft's latest partnership follows departing chief software architect Ray Ozzie's parting shot - a memo offering a new five-year plan for Microsoft, encouraging the company to move away from PCs to a variety of "appliance-like" devices that are connected to continuous services based in the cloud.