IBM banks on developers to expand cloud services

Offerings that include an IBM Cloud marketplace and a BlueMix developer garage are designed to attract developers

IBM is banking on developers and its global business reach in its efforts to catch up with more established cloud providers.

At the IBM Impact conference, underway in Las Vegas Monday, the company announced the IBM Cloud online marketplace, a BlueMix developer garage to be based in San Francisco, expansion of MobileFirst expertise services in 18 countries, and the opening up of Watson to enterprise developers.

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IBM is a late entrant into the cloud services business compared to rivals Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, but is hoping its new approach will pay off in terms of developer traction and market uptake.

"Our goal is to bridge the gap between the startups and the market; developers will concentrate on programming and providing solutions, while IBM handles the infrastructure needs," said Marie Wieck, general manager of the MobileFirst mobile tools business at IBM.

On the IBM Cloud marketplace, developers looking to create applications and solutions based on IBM technology will have access to all products and services provided by IBM. The marketplace will also allow IBM clients and partners to test solutions.

The BlueMix developer garage, a physical location, is being designed to allow developers, IBM experts, mentors, and other peers to collaborate on new applications. BlueMix is IBM's application development platform, designed to provide a continuous delivery framework. The first garage, located in San Francisco, will open its doors in June.

"There is no manual on launching a great company. The key is to be around people who can mentor, teach, and with a global reach that IBM brings," said Jim Deters, co-founder and CEO of Galvanize, a startup incubator and IBM BlueMix garage partner. The San Francisco BlueMix garage will be located at Galvanize's facilities there.

Some of the products and services available via the developer garage will relate to big data and analytics, database as a service, platform as a service, and design concepts.

"For instance, having an information repository is only one aspect of the way IBM is helping developers get real data, real fast," said Bob Picciano, senior vice president of information and analytics at IBM. Developers can take the data to "make predictive modeling as a functional step, to help in understanding the business and using analytical capability to grow."

To attract more developers, startups, and partners, IBM is banking on its global footprint, its established business track record, its investment toward the cloud, and its ability to match pricing provided by other cloud providers.

"We are aggregating all solutions, it's not just throwing services; developers will have the ability to control the solution from end to end, without moving from one platform to the other," said Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president of IBM Software and Cloud Solutions.

To support the case that it can compete, IBM held a press conference at Impact in conjunction with some of its partners, who were quick to point out IBM's strengths compared to the competition.

"Coriell Life Sciences is a client of Amazon, but if you go to a hospital and mention that you are in partnership with IBM, the clients tend to trust you because they probably use IBM for other services," said Scott Megill, CEO of Coriell Life Sciences.

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