It seems Big Blue has fallen under the scrutiny of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). IBM (IBM) disclosed this week that it learned in May it was being investigated by the SEC. Specifically, the SEC has taken an interest in the way IBM reports it revenue from cloud computing.
Although IBM executives have stated the company expects its cloud revenue to top $7 billion annually by the end of 2015, Big Blue doesn't formally separate its cloud revenue from its software revenue in its financial statements. That's something IBM has recently been criticized for. After all, IBM keeps financial figures regarding cloud shrouded in mystery behind larger lines of business.
So where are IBM's numbers coming from? Apparently they're only available internally (if at all).
According to IBM, it is cooperating with the SEC in the investigation and has no reason to be concerned.
That may very well prove to be true, but the SEC investigation and IBM's stronger push into the cloud computing realm, including the acquisition of SoftLayer in June, does bring the company's choices in reporting financials of different lines of business into question. Not because of any misdeeds, necessarily, but because cloud is becoming a greater share of IBM's revenue stream and both partners and investors would almost certainly like to know how Big Blue is really doing in that area.
Earlier this month, IBM claimed its cloud revenue grew more than 70 percent in the first half of 2013. Without figures to actually back it up, though, it's a meaningless number. As Talkin' Cloud noted then, IBM has its fingers in several slices of the cloud pie, including SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, private and public cloud, and consulting and implementation services. But how well is each area doing and where are IBM and its partners seeing revenue? Your guess is as good as anybody's.
Reporting cloud revenue can be tricky. We all know it's less of a single technology and more of a group of related technologies aimed at delivering a certain style of IT service. But how will this affect IBM? Probably very little. But if partners are lucky, it will spur the technology giant into further breaking down its revenue so they can clearly see what kind of revenue Big Blue is gaining from the cloud.