NATO's Allied Command Transformation is headed to the cloud and it's using International Business Machines to get there.

The organization is using software from IBM that will allow it to test software without having to run it on physcial machines. For critical command and control programs it's important to do that so changes can be made without interrupting the work. IBM said it will begin to deploy the software next January and will be giving NATO employees training and consulting shortly thereafter.

We've been working with Allied Command for the past year, explaining workshops and the specifics of cloud computing. Eventually, they said the time for talking is done, the time for doing is here. They asked us to sell them some cloud computing and let them get their hands on it and start playing around, said Ernest J. Herold, IBM's director in charge of the NATO project.  

Herold said the software IBM will be providing NATO will be built on its Blade servers. It will give NATO the capability to test their new technologies in a virtualized environment, more quickly and efficiently. It will also allow them to consolidate their two data centers and still operate without disruption.

They had a data center in San Diego and one in Norfolk, Virginia. They are consolidating that into one, which is reducing the number of people operating data centers. The challenge is then how you continue the same level of work with fewer people operating. What cloud computing does is allows them to use their people more effectively. Instead of plugging and unplugging patch cords into individual server hardware to create the necessary connections to build a test and development environment, you can do that virtually in a matter of days, rather than months, Herold said.

He said the work with NATO is important because of the influence the organization has over its 28 member nations. While some countries, like the U.S., recognize the importance of cloud computing, he said many of the other nations in NATO are looking to the organization to see its cost and time saving benefits.

Through this collaborative project, we hope to be able to realize the potential of cloud computing to tackle new challenges more efficiently, ultimately benefiting the NATO member nations, said Johan Goossens, Head of ACT's Technology and Human Factors Branch, in a statement.