hk.gifIBM is setting up a cloud computing laboratory in Hong Kong, in a move which signals just how quickly China is evolving into a mainstream IT market.

Cloud computing is the latest trend to sweep the IT industry and it promises a sea-change in the way businesses — and to a lesser extent consumers — use IT.

Instead of having to buy, install and constantly update software programs, business subscribe to internet-based services on a pay-as-you-go basis, thus reducing the complexity, support headaches and upfront cost of traditional IT.

Taken to its extreme, cloud computing allows businesses to dispense with traditional hardware and software, and instead use cheap thin-client computers and a portfolio of internet-based services that third parties provide in areas such as accounting, customer relationship management, data storage, etc.

IBM's HK facility, which will be based in the city's new Cyberport complex, will provide a global hub for web-based messaging services to support IBM's emerging LotusLive cloud service portfolio.

IBM unveiled LotusLive, back in January and the first LotusLive offering, LotusLive Engage, melds social networking, chat and online storage to create what IBM calls a smarter type of web conferencing in which meeting attendees are linked together to build online communities.

The HK facility brings the the number of IBM Cloud Labs worldwide to ten.

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