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In an effort to strengthen its cloud-provider play, IBM announced an agreement to buy SoftLayer, a US-based provider of cloud-infrastructure services, for an undisclosed sum.


The move is meant to help clients integrate public and private cloud infrastructure for customers, using Dallas, Texas-based SoftLayer's public-cloud services and IBM's SmartCloud portfolio, IBM explained.


Erich Clementi, senior VP of IBM Global Technology Services, said IBM wanted to address the opportunity to provide enterprise-grade reliability, security and management to businesses adding public-cloud capabilities to their on-premise infrastructure.


“With SoftLayer, IBM will accelerate the build-out of our public cloud infrastructure to give clients the broadest choice of cloud offerings to drive business innovation,” he said.


SoftLayer serves its 21,000 customers from 13 data centers in the US, Asia and Europe. The company offers a choice of using dedicated or shared servers to its cloud customers.


SoftLayer has had good traction with companies that built their infrastructure in the cloud first, and IBM's market reach will give it more capability to attract more traditional enterprise customers. “SoftLayer has a strong track record with born-on-the-cloud companies, and our move today with IBM will rapidly expand that footprint globally as well as allow us to go deep into the large enterprise market,” Lance Crosby, SoftLayer CEO, said.


IBM says it expects to make $7bn in cloud revenue by the end of 2015. Its cloud play consists of more than pure cloud infrastructure services, including also a lot of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, fully-managed Infrastructure-as-a-Service optimized for specific workloads, such as SAP, as well as all-in-one cloud hardware packages.


With the acquisition of SoftLayer, IBM also announced the creation of a new cloud services division. This division will combine SoftLayer with the SmartCloud portfolio, once the acquisition closes.


IBM expects to close the deal in the third quarter.


SoftLayer is currently owned by GI Partners, a private investment firm. The company's current incarnation is the result of a 2011 merger between SoftLayer and a hosting company that used to be called The Planet.