IBM today announced SmartCloud Application Services, a platform-as-a-service that is part of a major new cloud initiative from the company.

The application framework includes capabilities for life-cycle management, middleware-as-a-service, and integration, as well as deployment services and the ability to manage packaged applications such as SAP.

IBM is leveraging its Rational, Tivoli and WebSphere assets to provide those capabilities as a service, relieving programmers of the underlying complexity of configuring middleware, according to Lauren States, vice president of cloud computing and growth initiatives at IBM. “We’ve repurposed parts of the portfolio for use as a service,” she said.

States said the company studied its enterprise customers to see how they were routinely deploying their applications, leading IBM to create predefined deployment environments as services. “Our team has been understanding application deployment patterns and codifying them so they can be used in a repeated basis,” she said. “We’ve looked at how things such as Web apps are commonly deployed.”

Cloud computing offers cost savings for organizations in the areas of installing, maintaining, and managing data centers and physical machines. States discussed the evolution of the cloud to this point, from experimentation to economics, and ultimately to innovation. Organizations, she said, first had to determine how to adopt the cloud based on their business processes and from a cultural standpoint. “From economics, they gain leverage for innovation, through the ability to implement new business models, or faster time to market,” she explained.

SmartCloud Application Services will have what the company called enterprise-grade security. “Security is a combination of technology, policy and practices,” States said, adding that IBM will leverage technology from its recent security acquisitions, as well as work with customers to establish best-practice security policies to ensure applications and data in the cloud are not compromised.

The services can either be hosted on IBM’s cloud infrastructure or on an organization’s private cloud, and they are available under a variety of licensing options, States said.

IBM today also announced the launch of SmartCloud Foundation, a portfolio of cloud software for deploying and managing clouds behind a corporate firewall; and SmartCloud Ecosystem, a set of services for partners and ISVs to adopt cloud models for transactions.

IBM expected its cloud offerings to drive US$7 billion in hardware, software and services revenue by 2015.