IBM has opened its inaugural UK-based cloud computing development lab that lets partners test services based on Big Blue technologies.
The Hursley Innovation Centre near Winchester has been kitted out to help channel partners work out their role in the cloud-based IT economy, which IBM reckons will be the primary means of technology procurement by 2015.
"When it comes to cloud, our competitors have their partners do the heavy lifting; from porting to building a marketing plan," said IBM UK and Ireland Business Partner Organisation cloud leader Steven Heeney.
He added its different partner types could use the labs to "explore a wide variety of cloud computing models and become cloud builders, application, technology and infrastructure providers and cloud resellers and aggregators"
The development team at integration-as-a-service firm Cast Iron, acquired by IBM this year, will be on site to show partners how to connect on-premise and cloud environments for finance, healthcare, telco and energy and utility clients.
Chris Wilson, commercial director at IBM Business Partner Celerity, said cloud computing was a good bet for the future, but like many resellers he was still working out where to fit cloud into his current business and skills model.
He added that the channel still had time to build a cloud strategy, "I liken it to virtualisation, everyone was talking about it but it took a while before that talk turned into reality, cloud is here but will be a couple of years before it really takes off."
Industry watcher Gartner said this summer that the number of cloud deployments was growing rapidly and predicted that the market was on course to be worth almost $150bn by 2014.
Microsoft has also identified the need for partner development in the cloud and has been running a series of workshops this year to help partners adapt.
Craig Beard, COO at Microsoft BPOS poster boy Content & Code, expected the market for cloud services to start flying next year, "Microsoft is investing a lot of money in marketing the cloud so we expect it to really take off next year."