IBM Scores Record Cloud Deal

In what’s being touted as the largest enterprise cloud-based communications deployment to date, IBM (IBM) said that Panasonic will shift its entire workforce to the hosted LotusLive e-mail and collaboration service – abandoning the Exchange server, from Microsoft (MSFT).

Panasonic will start by porting over 100,000 workers in various departments, then include 380,000 employees, partners and suppliers later in 2010. The deal comprises LotusLive’s Web conference, file-sharing, IM, and project management in addition to e-mail, calendars, and contacts. Panasonic also plans to incorporate LotusLive Connections, a “business social networking” platform, said Mitsuhiro Aoyama, vice president for corporate information systems at the Japanese consumer electronics giant.

“LotusLive is an integral vehicle for our employees to truly function as a globally integrated enterprise,” Aoyama added. “It will allow us to work securely with our extended enterprise of Panasonic partners and customers as if they are all in the same location, bringing the promise of quicker, more efficient teamwork and commerce worldwide.”

The Panasonic move follows several other high-profile defections from the Exchange system, for many years the de facto industry standard for premises-based enterprise email communications. Last fall the city government of Los Angeles said it would shift its e-mail system from Exchange to Gmail, from Google.

Earlier Microsoft announced a multi-year, quarter-billion-dollar partnership with Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) to develop cloud-based services including storage, virtualization, and systems management. Worldwide, the overall market for cloud computing is growing at around 28 percent a year according to Gartner, and is expected to reach $150 billion by 2013.

IBM, which has taken a more deliberate but arguably further reaching approach to cloud computing than rivals such as Amazon (AMZN) and Google Inc. (GOOG), said last year that it will invest hundreds of millions in its Blue Cloud initiative to bring many forms of computing and communications to the Internet cloud. Launched in early 2009, the LotusLive suite now has more than 18 million users, according to the company.

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