That deal was for an Atlanta company called Internet Security Systems, or ISS, which I visited several times over the last few years. What ISS does is proactive security, constant monitoring of client systems that lets them jump into situations at the first sign of trouble. With constant monitoring, and a staff of experts behind it working problems as they're found, IBM ISS has built a global security monitoring system that's now ready to go to the next level.
Since buying ISS a decade ago IBM has been investing heavily in it, building a network of security control rooms around the world. The only continent they don't cover directly is Africa, which is handled through an office in Belgium. But every major tech center in Asia, South America and Europe now has an ISS office in it, looking for trouble and staying ahead of it.
With this deal IBM gets access to AT&T's Dallas control room, and gains security management over key Internet core assets. While active monitoring will be available only to IBM cloud customers, with the network up-sold as part of the deal, it is bound to be positive for all Internet users. I've seen how IBM's people cooperate with other security companies on shared problems. I expect IBM to scale these efforts further as a result of the deal, and any street is safer when there are more good cops on the beat.
More important, this deal makes an important statement about cloud.
Cloud is not just a single virtualized system, with distributed computing components, based on commodity hardware. It is, at its best, a network of such systems, working seamlessly together just as the Internet works together. It combines unlimited scaling of individual workloads with the redundancy the Internet provides naturally. My guess is you'll hear a new buzzword around this in 2013, networked cloud.
The race is on to provide networked cloud, with Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOG), and IBM all in on it. This deal gives IBM advantages at the high end of the market, among very large enterprises that may find networked cloud a tough term to take, but which need it to remain competitive. The result will be a premium-priced cloud that large enterprises trust, which enhances the viability of the larger networked cloud market.
This is going to be a win-win-win, and not just for IBM and AT&T.