A year after IBM's $2 billion purchase of SoftLayer, Big Blue is moving to further expand SoftLayer's cloud services and infrastructure reach while helping IBM achieve dominant status in cloud solutions for enterprise.

By mixing SoftLayer and IBM's hardware, software and services, IBM hopes to continue its successful reach into markets in which Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft's Azure are the big game. The venture will do so in part by looking to increase its share of hybrid data centers.

SoftLayer, based in Dallas, Texas, was founded in 2005 and purchased by IBM in July of 2013. The company provides cloud infrastructure as a service from 13 data centers in the United States, Asia and Europe, with a global presence of 17 network points. SoftLayer specializes in Web startups and small to midsize businesses. As a result of its acquisition by IBM, many more major enterprise firms -- such as Macy's, Whirlpool and a Daimler subsidiary, have moved to SoftLayer.

SoftLayer's expertise is in bare metal and virtual servers, networking, turnkey big data and private cloud solutions.

IBM intends to raise the number of SoftLayer data centers to 40, from the original 13, by this year's fourth quarter. This will help SoftLayer plant the IBM flag in more midsized and smaller business, melding with IBM's big players to give the company a broad expanse of the cloud enterprise market.

Since SoftLayer was acquired, IBM has also made a number of investments in the company beyond the original $2 billion purchase price. IBM put $1.2 billion in expanding SoftLayer's global data center footprint to 40 locations and opening SoftLayer facilities in Melbourne, Toronto and Washington, D.C. Another $1 billion went into the launch of a Watson (Watson is a cognitive technology that processes information more like a human than a computer) business unit (Watson running on SoftLayer).

Another $1 billion will establish a cloud platform-as-a-service, BlueMix, to help millions of developers build cloud applications that run on SoftLayer.

"In its first year, SoftLayer has proven to be a pivotal acquisition for IBM Cloud," said Erich Clementi, senior vice president of IBM global technology services. "SoftLayer has quickly become the foundation of IBM's cloud portfolio, anchoring our infrastructure, platform and software-as-a-service offering and transforming the fortunes of many industry companies, from Web startups to established enterprises looking for the speed, flexibility and security that hybrid cloud environments provide.

"Of all the options for public or private clouds in the market, IBM Cloud with all of its resources, assets and expertise is the logical choice for a world where the volume and complexity of data-rich workloads grows exponentially every day."

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