According to an IBM tally released recently, the US Patent and Trademark Office has issued more than 1,200 patents to IBM related to cloud technologies during the past 18 months, with 400 of those issued so far in 2015.
For IBM, adding to its intellectual property is key to ensuring that the company will be a major player in the cloud market for years to come, said David Kaminsky, Chief Patent Innovation Architect, IBM Software.
With an extensive cloud patent portfolio, IBM is less likely to be blocked from selling the most up-to-date offerings due to a competing company asserting patent claims.
“We can always counter with our own patents to keep the market open,” Kaminsky said.
The patents cover a range of technologies for the cloud, particularly those that help make enterprise-level computing services more reliable and secure, Kaminsky added.
Patent No. 9,015,164, for instance, issued in April, describes a way to make a cloud service much more reliable. The technique involves taking frequent snapshots of a running virtual machine. Should the server on which the virtual machine is running crash, the cloud service can quickly switch to the latest snapshot, minimising or eliminating downtime.
Other IBM patents tackle the challenges in securing cloud services.
Patent No. 8,984,132 describes a way to separate secure data from routine data, so the secure data can be deployed on appropriately hardened servers. Patent No. 8,990,950 provides a technique for controlling access for distributed data with more granularity than current systems offer.
Kaminsky wouldn’t say how, or if, IBM will roll these technologies into its own cloud services.
“Nonetheless, the areas of innovations that we demonstrated in these patents are things that are important to the ideal cloud,” Kaminsky said.
IBM commands about 7 percent of the market for cloud services, trailing Microsoft with 10 percent and Amazon Web Services with 28 percent, according to research conducted in the last quarter of 2014 by analyst firm Synergy.
For the past 22 years, IBM has received more patents than any other company. In 2014, it was awarded 7,534 patents. For comparison, in 2014, Microsoft was awarded 2,829 patents and Amazon garnered 745, according to the IFI CLAIMS patent service.
“We know we have the largest patent portfolio. We don’t worry about who comes in second,” Kaminsky said.