Friday, March 7, 2014

Is IBM Planning a Big Play for Cloud?

At IBM Pulse 2014 (#ibmpulse), many IBM speakers discussed their customers’ challenge of dealing with the speed of change for business and technology.  But interestingly, many of the themes and strategies presented at Pulse 2014 revealed an IBM that is, like their customers, in the midst of dealing with the speed of change. This was exemplified by major shifts within IBM and the progression of its strategies in key technology areas. But before we explore this in more detail, it’s also valuable to reflect on what’s changed since last year’s Pulse.

Pulse 2014 vs. Pulse 2013:

Pulse 2014 signaled the beginning of Pulse as IBM’s Cloud user conference, broadening its mission from its previous focus on IBM Tivoli solutions (now IBM Cloud and Smarter Infrastructure) and their connections to other IBM products. With its new Cloud focus, the Pulse 2014 themes and messages were focused on “Bold Moves”, the need to move to “composable business” to keep up with the needs of the business and how “dynamic Cloud” is the path to getting there.

From an industry viewpoint, the focus of cloud discussions has also shifted. In past years, the focus at Pulse was virtualization, deployment, cloud standards, etc. This year, virtualization seems to have moved off the front burner. And although the imperative for cloud standards are still mentioned, the progress of the on-going cloud standards efforts and IBM’s adoption of OpenStack have changed the discussion from the need to fill an industry void, to the acknowledgement that the cloud standards are progressing forward.

The general discussion of IBM’s Cloud strategy that includes automation, cloud standards,  standardization, the use of patterns,  etc. are consistent with IBM’s cloud discussions from last year. But the dialogue has definitely expanded beyond private cloud and the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) level; to hybrid environments, public cloud Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). This change may reflect where some of IBM’s leading-edge cloud customers are heading, but in large part, it’s where IBM’s capabilities and Cloud strategy are heading.                 

A major change at IBM since last year’s Pulse was its acquisition of SoftLayer. This acquisition was and is a “game changer” for IBM, as SoftLayer becomes a foundational linchpin for IBM’s current and future Cloud strategy but it is also catalyzing major changes and shifts within IBM.  Read on for my analysis of IBM’s Pulse 2014 and where IBM may be heading.

IBM Expanding its Presence across the Cloud Ecosystem     

Based on the announcements and strategies revealed at Pulse 2014, it is clear that IBM is gearing up to play in Hybrid cloud environments in a big way.  In fact, it looks as though IBM has grand plans for expanding its presence across the breadth of the Cloud ecosystem.  Traditionally, IBM provided customers with infrastructure technology tools, and it will do the same for cloud – delivering cloud infrastructure tools (hardware and/or software) for on-premise and off-premise clouds.

IBM has also offered public cloud services for some time. But a recent acquisition dramatically changed IBM’s public cloud offering and opens up many new opportunities for IBM. [1] Potentially, this new development sets IBM up as a:  cloud on-premise tool provider, public cloud tool provider, public cloud IaaS provider, cloud PaaS provider, cloud SaaS provider,  and SaaS provider of partner re-labeled services. If these scenarios play out, IBM could have one of the broadest reaches across the cloud ecosystem that can’t be matched by most vendors.  IBM will compete with vendors in selected segments, for example providers of infrastructure cloud services or specialized SaaS services. But with IBM’s extensive technology and software resources, including system management solutions, industry solutions, business analytics and Watson cognitive computing, IBM’s future cloud opportunities could be extensive.

If you don’t believe my theory about where IBM may be heading, look at what they’ve already accomplished and the trajectories of the directions they’re heading in.

IBM, the Private Cloud Tools Provider:

Although we’ve been hearing about Hybrid cloud environments from all of the major IT vendors, much of it has been in the realm of “vision”, “future” and an overall marketecture approach to cloud. In general, what many vendors call “Hybrid” is enabling their customers to run their software on-premise or off-premise (cloud), by extending their existing on-premise products to also run in the cloud.

IBM also began their Cloud approach in this way, by extending their existing system management solutions (IBM Cloud and Smarter Infrastructure) to run either on-premise or off-premise in the cloud, and adding cloud-enabling functionality.  These cloud solutions are the core of IBM’s SmartCloud solutions which are tools for deploying and running on-premise, private clouds. 

IBM, the Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) Provider:

However, IBM’s cloud strategy changed dramatically with the SoftLayer acquisition last year. With this acquisition, IBM opted to acquire its next generation cloud platform rather than continuing to morph its existing capabilities. In SoftLayer, IBM acquired a “built for the cloud” platform that delivers both dedicated bare-metal cloud services and shared commodity server cloud services. 

These dual capabilities put IBM’s cloud in direct competition with two types of cloud infrastructure service vendors:  the commodity server cloud service vendors and bare-metal hosting vendors. The key to SoftLayer is its flexible API abstraction layer that enables easy switching between different infrastructure hardware choices, in order to match specific workload needs.

IBM, the Cloud Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) Provider:

Now equipped with its “built for the cloud” SoftLayer platform, IBM is now setting its sights on becoming a provider of cloud-based tools for developers of cloud-based applications, as it develops the next level of PaaS solutions. 

Leveraging its SoftLayer cloud platform, IBM built a cloud Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) for developers by layering Cloud Foundry on top of SoftLayer. IBM’s newest PaaS called BlueMix, was announced at Pulse. It’s a service that developers can use to develop cloud-based enterprise applications.                         

IBM also announced its acquisition of Cloudant, a Data Base-as-a-Service provider, which also runs on SoftLayer.

IBM also owns and continues to develop API capabilities that can help its developer customers participate as providers and consumers in the API economy. (The ability to compose new applications by integrating cloud-based SaaS capabilities into enterprise applications using APIs.)

IBM, the Cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Provider:

Further leveraging its SoftLayer cloud platform, IBM announced new SaaS offerings that deliver its software and capabilities via the cloud.  Complementing over 100 public SaaS offerings IBM provides for roles across the C-suite today, the latest SaaS offerings range from Watson cognitive computing-based solutions to IBM Cloud and Smarter Infrastructure service management solutions, as well as Human Resources and Marketing SaaS solutions. 

The variety of initial SaaS solutions is not surprising, given IBM’s vast store of software assets. This is just the tip of the IBM software iceberg, as IBM continues to expand the delivery options for its solutions. Expect many more of IBM’s software solutions to be “SaaS-ified” over the coming months.

In fact, IBM just launched a new online platform, IBM Service Engage, where potential and existing customers can learn about, explore, try and buy some of its service management solutions. Customers can evaluate IBM’s service management solutions using free 30-day trials of the SaaS-based solutions (running on SoftLayer). We also expect more of its service management solutions to appear on IBM Service Engage in the coming months. 

IBM, as the provider of Cloud SaaS re-labeled as Partner services:

As IBM’s SaaS portfolio grows, there’s also the potential for service partners to use IBM SaaS solutions and re-label them as their own new compositions of SaaS suites of solutions. If this step happens, this completes IBM’s broad reach across the cloud ecosystem.   

The Final Word

Cloud computing is evolving, and we are currently in the midst of this developing technology trend. From its recent announcements and strategies revealed at Pulse 2014, and reading between the lines, it appears that IBM is positioning itself to play very broadly across the developing cloud ecosystem.

As the adoption of cloud accelerates and IT spending shifts toward cloud providers, it makes sense that IBM seeks to capture the IT spend on both sides of the equation: as a provider of tools, infrastructure and services to cloud providers, as well as provider of tools, infrastructure and services to IT consumers. 

Mirroring IBM’s Pulse theme of “Bold Moves”, IBM is making bold moves itself. In the short term, this major shift in IBM’s businesses could have major impacts on IBM internally as its business models adapt to business changes. It’s still unclear how this will play out in the long term but it will be interesting to watch. Don't say that you weren't warned about IBM's grand plans for Cloud. Just remember that you heard it here first.

[1] The SoftLayer acquisition will be covered in more detail below.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

IBM Pulse 2014 – Cloud benefits for all, Enterprise Dev/Ops, Execs and IT

By Bill Moran

IBM made a number of cloud-related announcements at Pulse 2014 (#ibmpulse). IBM believes that cloud changes the way that businesses operate and people work. IBM identified three groups in the enterprise to address their needs in the cloud environment. They are the developers, line of business executives, and IT management. We highlight offerings to each group.


We review BlueMix in a separate blog[1] on our website.  Here we’ll simply point out that BlueMix provides developers with access to a rich set of capabilities, many for free. Although not a new announcement, IBM justifiably points to SoftLayer as an important tool for developers. IBM will open more data centers worldwide that support it. This investment makes it easier for customers to track their data and keep it within certain geographic boundaries.

IBM announced a beta version of its Pure Application Service running on SoftLayer. This helps customers run applications with minimal set-up time. They can create software patterns and test them in the Cloud. Customers have the choice of running in the Cloud or on their premises with the Pure Application System. We think that this will be welcomed by customers who want to test and develop applications, while enjoying the favorable economics of the Cloud.

IBM is offering its full suite of Platform Computing software on SoftLayer. Customers can scale cluster capacity up and down. Pricing is usage-based, so they pay only for what they need. SoftLayer supports bare metal in its cloud for users desiring maximum performance.

The final developer offering is the IBM Mobile Quality Assurance service. This is a Beta offering that allows tracking of mobile app quality. Developers can easily access reports on bugs and crashes. It also allows analysis of customer reviews so that developers get a good picture of what users like and dislike about the new app.

LOB executives

The goal here is to enable business units to access key software without requiring any programmer assistance. They will be able to exercise actions (like analytics) in the cloud without installing any software. For example, for massive amounts of collected documentation, the IBM Watson Discovery Advisor will intelligently search and analyze the documents for insights. With IBM BLU acceleration for Cloud, customers can set up data warehouse access and analytics capability in less than one hour. The IBM Maximo Inventory Insights product targets customers with the IBM Maximo products already installed; it applies predictive analytics to data on existing inventory.

IBM offers two products for the Human Resources function.The IBM Kenexa Talent Suite provides insight into the workforce helping to predict outcomes of possible changes. IBM Connections makes set-up of cloud-based meetings and chats easier. 

 The IBM Mobile Push & Engage tool allows marketing to notify customers of new offerings and promotions in near real–time. 

IT Managers

There are a number of offerings for IT managers. IBM Service Engage refers to three Software-as-a-Service offerings, IBM Application Performance Management, IBM Workload Automation and IBM SmartCloud Control Desk which can be accessed and on a trial basis free of charge  for 30 days. All of these functions can be explored at:

IT managers will welcome IBM Smart Cloud Virtual Storage Center Entry and the IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center for Storwize Family. Both are v5.2. These allow intelligent data placement in the cloud along with analytics for processing it. Tivoli Storage Manager Suite for Unified Recover v7.1 protects key data.
IBM SmartCloud Analytics analyzes how the IT infrastructure is interrelated. It pulls together all performance data to help in detecting developing problems. IBM Mobile Device Management and Security protects mobile transactions between the company and its employees or customers.

IBM enhanced the Maas360 suite developed by Fiberlink, to provide it as an on-premise software appliance. They also added Windows Phone 8 to existing Android and IOS support. Further enhancements help secure email, calendar and contact data.


IBM is positioning Pulse as its key venue for Cloud announcements. They are definitely accomplishing that. In addition, they made clear that IBM is undergoing significant internal change to assure it will be leading the way as the use and delivery of IT services changes both IT and the enterprises and businesses they support.  Read our other blogs about Pulse for more details. While Las Vegas airport signs make clear that what happens in Las Vegas, stays there, IBM obviously believes their announcements will change that  and these happenings in Las Vegas will not just stay in Las Vegas. We tend to agree.

IBM Pulse 2014 - Rocking the world of IT

 By Rich Ptak
IBM’s string of billion dollar spends resulting in acquisitions, investments and disinvestments in software companies, platforms and technologies have raised speculation for some time. Yet, others, both vendors and consumers of IT, apparently shared similar, albeit more limited visions, following less ambitious paths. IBM Pulse 2014 recently held in Las Vegas was filled with announcements that shed light on the impetus behind these activities. A lot of information was shared, much of which we will comment upon this year. Here, we focus on three issues that struck us of special interest. 

It is clear that IBM is playing a longer game with a strategy that will fundamentally change them. It affects what product they develop, how they deliver, as well as how they are presented to and consumed by users at all levels. If things play out as imagined, the world of IT and consumers changes radically. This is an undertaking with significant risks. Too big for one sitting, we deal with it in pieces. See other blogs on our site at:

Lets look at three significant changes:
1.       IBM is reconfiguring itself to IBM-as-a-Service. No, they will not abandon their hardware and software products (though they are trimming some away). They are altering how they think, what they do, and the way they deliver value to customers. From now on, they will offer integrated services that help customers use technology to achieve enterprise goals. Doesn’t sound all that different from past statements or even from what is said by competitors. But it is very different. The difference is in the breadth of vision of the task being addressed. The difference is in the way services are built, paid for and offered. The difference is in how IBM, its business and technology partners view the changes to the way business functions.
2.       The second item for discussion is the emerging model of composable businesses. Old business models are too slow, too rigid to remain in place. While IT has been solving business problems for a long time, the last decade has seen the breadth of IT involvement in business processes explode.  On-line shopping is one highly visible aspect.  Perceptive enterprises are learning that they can, indeed, must make effective and faster use of technology to respond to consumers’ rapidly changing behavior. As an example, US retail sales data collected on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), 2013 was analyzed and reported that same day. An analysis examined sales executed using iPads versus ‘traditional’ on-line connections. Data included not just sales volume, but user experience, time to complete, comparison of performance by platform, etc.  IT staff were able to adjust apps and infrastructure to boost sales.  Fundamental to the ability of IT and business staff to respond were Cloud, Big Data/Analytics, open standards and well-executed planned integration. Research indicates that that only about 25% of some 20 Million developers worldwide have even touched the Cloud. This must change and leads to the third point.
3.       A major gap that must be bridged exists between ‘Systems of Record’ which dominates in traditional IT and that which is needed to support a composable business model. It is a gap in experience and function. The answer cannot be one of wholesale replacement to leap into the new environment. It requires plans and services to help at every stage of what will no doubt be a long, challenging journey. To survive, businesses must become composable, i.e. able to adapt, innovate and deliver new services at the speed of the internet. Traditional IT operations and architectures have no chance. The existing (Cloud, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile) and emerging technologies of IT drive this new business model. 
One critical need for the transition is being addressed by standards organizations and groups, such as TOSCA, OpenStack, Cloud Foundry, OASIS, Cloud Standards Customer Council setting the standards, providing implementation plans and creating patterns for design, configuration, etc. These tasks are well underway and supported by a large number of companies including IBM.

A second need is to help developers become familiar with the technologies which enable the composable business. This is now available with the IBM BlueMix Platform-as-a-Service. BlueMix is a PaaS specifically designed to allow developers experience at creating cloud apps and services. It allows programming in many languages, allows access to multiple services including Big Data/Analytics, Mobile and Integration (e.g. with Systems of Record solutions), as well as DevOps services. It has been specifically designed for Mobile environment. There is much more included and you can find more details in our blogs and from IBM. 

No one has the breadth of offerings or the depth of experience or the hubris to fully define the radical change taking place in the consumption of technology by enterprises and business. However, IBM has taken a major step forward by articulating the vision as they redefine themselves to live it. By committing themselves to becoming IBM-as-a-Service, and sharing their experiences through products, services and cooperative effort, they demonstrate their commitment to helping IT, consumers and business on that journey. The future is impossible to fully predict. IBM admits there are many unknowns. Waiting for full clarity is not an option, those that move to where the market is moving will be best positioned to benefit when it arrives. It is going to be quite a journey.