Aside from the Watson APIs, there's nothing particularly unique about this scheme; in a sense, it reinforces that IBM is serious about the cloud. But it underscores that customers need to dig into cloud pricing and prepare for migration if the need arises.
On this score, LeBlanc professes full support for open standards. He sees IBM's partnerships with OpenStack, Cloud Foundry, Node.js, and Docker as an eventual guarantee of cloud interoperability and workload portability, provided the rest of the industry supports those standards.
IBM support for Docker actually seemed a little ahead of the curve to me, given the challenge by Core OS to Docker containers -- this is still Wild West territory. But LeBlanc affirmed that support in no uncertain terms:
Look, when I make a commitment to a standard like that, I'm almost giving the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. Clients will make decisions based on what we do, so we don't take that very lightly. I can't say to my client a year from now sorry, after you spent all that money, I was joking. That will not fly with an enterprise client. So we're definitely committed.
Ultimately, I have a feeling much of IBM's enterprise base will be insulated from such details. The hybrid cloud is at the core of IBM's pitch, where IBM provides the bridge from on-premises infrastructure to the cloud, and professional services determine the best locations to store customer data and run customer applications. Yes, in some cases customers will do it themselves, but a robust cloud with an advanced PaaS is as much for the convenience of IBM's developers as it is for customers.
Such handholding extends to IBM's local versions of OpenStack and Bluemix, in beta now and generally available later this year. Customers may run both in their own four walls, but according to LeBlanc, IBM will "manage the updates and the infrastructure."
It's a scary time for large enterprises. They have enormous sunk cost in legacy systems, yet technology is changing all around them at an unprecedented pace. IBM has made the leap technologically -- and now has a credible value proposition to enterprise customers who need to cross that chasm as well.
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