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IBM's Robert LeBlanc has his head in the cloud

Katherine Noyes | Feb. 23, 2015
IBM's new man in charge of the cloud business is moving fast.

"We added 15 [pods] in 2014, and we'll be adding more in 2015," he said. With overriding goals including data locality, sovereignty and security, "every time we open a new pod, we see workload naturally move to that cloud pod in that country."

Also in the works is the ongoing expansion of Bluemix, IBM's cloud-based app platform.

"We started with about 20 services, and now we're up to more than 80," LeBlanc said. "We want to continue to accelerate that with more -- some from IBM and some from our partners."

Developers are "the engine for innovation," he added. "We want to give them the best possible platform for the next generation of cloud apps."

Mobile strategy in general will be part of LeBlanc's focus as well. "We see mobile and cloud as interchangeable," he explained. "Which is driving which? Both are driving each other."

Related to that, IBM has already forged a partnership with Apple; this year, more such alliances will follow, LeBlanc said.

IBM will also make more acquisitions this year, LeBlanc said, as well as hiring in several key roles, drawing both from IBM insiders and outsiders.

In general, IBM's strategy has been to take seemingly diverse parts of the organization and put them together.

"We now have one cloud salesforce that can say to clients, 'what problem are you trying to solve?'" LeBlanc explained. "Being one organization with 'one throat to choke,' so to speak, makes it easier to put solutions in front of the client quickly."

The pivot to cloud services is one of the biggest IBM has ever made, said technology analyst Rob Enderle.

"In a way, it is at least a partial return to the services-based model that initially drove IBM to dominate the technology market through the mid-1980s," Enderle explained. "One of IBM's biggest mistakes was to move off that model, because it made their revenue -- which had worked more like an annuity and had been nearly immune to economic changes -- far more volatile."

The shift back to more of a subscription-services model is "likely to be just as difficult, and it is happening far faster," he said. At the end of the move, though, "Robert should be the most powerful and important executive in IBM."


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