Playing catch-up to Microsoft in the so-called public-cloud market, IBM will start offering development software over the Internet this month.

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NEW YORK — Playing catch-up to Microsoft in the so-called public-cloud market, IBM will start offering development software over the Internet this month.

IBM, which began testing programs in October, is ready to sell them, said Erich Clementi, the company’s strategy chief. The programs allow customers to test and create their own software on the Web.

Looking for new sales growth, IBM has used its more than $20 billion in acquisitions to develop cloud computing, which lets customers access and store data on external servers, eliminating costs to maintain their own machines. In a public cloud, information is stored on the Web. Global cloud-computing sales rose an estimated 21 percent to $56.3 billion last year, according to market-research firm Gartner Inc.

“We love cloud computing because it creates a whole host of investment,” Clementi said.

IBM, the world’s largest computer-services provider, has approached the cloud model in a piecemeal way, letting customers pick and choose which work they want to put in a cloud, such as development and testing, analytics or e-mail.

Clementi said most cloud customers have used “private” clouds, which sit within a company’s firewall and are vaunted as more secure than the public model.

IBM has lagged behind Microsoft in developing a public cloud, said James Staten, an analyst at Forrester Research.

“They’re circling the wagon, they’re corralling the troops, and they’re saying ‘This is a battle we have to win,’ ” said Staten. “But there’s a lot more marketing than meat.”

Microsoft is “well ahead of IBM” in offering corporate cloud programs via the Internet, Staten said. Its Azure product also lets customers develop software on the Web.