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IBM’s cloud platform strategy is getting legitimate

James Staten, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Forrester Research | July 23, 2014
After a slow and somewhat disjointed start, it looks like IBM is starting to build some serious momentum in the Public Cloud Platform game.

After a slow and somewhat disjointed start, it looks like IBM is starting to build some serious momentum in the Public Cloud Platform game. 

The company got a leg up with its 2013 acquisition of Softlayer, a managed hosting company with a small but legitimate hybrid cloud solution. Behind a self-service interface and set of APIs, it blended per-month and per-hour offerings as well as virtual and bare metal resources in a way that let customers ease into cloud from traditional hosting (Look for a full analysis of this IaaS offering in the fall 2014 update to our Forrester Wave of Public Cloud Platforms). Softlayer also brought a strong understanding about what it takes to build a hyper-scale environment, which IBM has listened to and learned from since. Then IBM partnered with Pivotal to bring CloudFoundry to its Softlayer platform and build anew a successor to its IBM Smartcloud Application Servicesmiddleware environment which had struggled. After a furious effort to get its software division to think and move at agile speeds, the company brought out BlueMix in Q1 and started populating a cloud marketplace of ISVs. And now, in the last two weeks it has taken BlueMix to general availability, added differentiated data analytics services in the form of Watson Cloud and announced a serious mobile play through its partnership with Apple. While all of these latest efforts are in their infancy, they point to a much more robust cloud offering from a clear enterprise leader. And these are moves that bear watching and consideration for all clients who have yet to move significant portions of their application portfolio into the cloud. Let's examine each of these latest moves and why they point to greater relevancy for IBM's cloud platform:

* BlueMix over Cloud Foundry - While hype is running high around Pivotal's open source multi tenant middleware platform, there are few legitimate enterprise implementations to date. ActiveState has built a nice business around the solution; sufficient for a startup. Pivotal has what is mostly a demo environment running atop AWS. And CenturyLink, through its Tier 3 acquisition has a small but growing business around its implementation ofAppFog, and created the C# extension of the platform, IronFoundry. With the announcement of commercial availability of BlueMix, IBM now has potentially the most complete and robust Cloud Foundry implementation. BlueMix is of course far more than the base Cloud Foundry. It incorporates myriad middleware and pluggable cloud services from IBM and ISVs in the IBM Cloud Marketplace, a collection of open source and third party middleware components that can be added to the base offering. What this means is that if you want to take applications into production on top of Cloud Foundry, it's hard to argue against doing so on the IBM Cloud. 


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