IBM aims to bring faster development to the cloud

IBM is expanding its Bluemix cloud services to offer more agile development tools

While practices to speed programming have been around for a decade, only recently have they caught the eye of the enterprise manager looking for a competitive edge. Now, IBM is updating its Bluemix portfolio of cloud services to help companies save time in deploying new applications by using these new programming methodologies.

At its annual Innovate developer conference, being held this week in Orlando, IBM is launching a number of new Bluemix services to support development practices such as devops, which shortens development time by having software developers work more closely with system administrators and other IT operations staff, and agile programming, which speeds the development process through rapid iterations of applications based on immediate customer feedback.

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IBM is also touting a few early customer successes for the service.

Over the past few years, enterprises have found that they need to develop both their internal and client-facing software much more quickly, said Kristof Kloeckner, IBM general manager of the company's Rational Software portfolio.

Within many industries, companies are now competing with one another through their customer-facing applications, making speedy software development a necessity.

"We've seen this evolution for the past few years, but it's really come to a head in the past year," Kloeckner said, noting that concepts such as devops (development operations), continuous delivery, agile and other recent programming methodologies have only recently caught the attention of executive management. Such concepts were all designed to hasten the speed of software development.

"Business leadership thought that software would somehow take care of itself and didn't really treat software delivery as a core enterprise competency," Kloeckner said. IBM is positing that having superior software directly leads to a competitive advantage.

In February, the company introduced its Bluemix set of PaaS (platform-as-a-service) offerings to aid in software delivery.

Bluemix provides a way for developers to readily assemble different cloud-based functionalities, both from IBM and others, into services. Such functionality does or shortly will include planning and collaboration tools, mobile device management, source code management, and ways to quickly move a service or application into production.

At the conference, IBM demonstrated how it is extending these tools to allow for more rapid delivery of software and services.

IBM is preparing its services so its customers can use a mixture of on-premise and cloud resources, an approach known as the hybrid cloud. Sales of hybrid cloud systems and services are expected to reach US$79 billion by 2018, according to IT research firm Research and Markets.

The new Bluemix services include:

  • AppScan, which allows the developer to test the security of an application in multiple environments
  • Embeddable Reporting, a set of services to build advanced analytics to reveal how a mobile app is being used by customers
  • Workflow, a set of components to orchestrate cloud services, which can modify workflows based on their behavior
  • Continuous Delivery Pipeline, a set of services to allow organizations to manage multiple application releases

The company will also unveil a set of continuous testing, release and deployment packages -- covering mobile devices and mainframes -- as well as a set of packages for business planning and collaborative development.

IBM has also formed a partnership with SAP to offer the SAP HANA in-memory computing software and other SAP software as cloud services.

In addition to the new service offerings, the company has also unveiled a few early users of Bluemix services at the conference.

The FMIC (Financial Insurance Management Corp.) insurance company used the platform to develop a new mobile app that helped boost its customer renewal rates by 30 percent. FIMC hired IBM business partner PointSource to build an app for FIMC's customers that could offer advanced features typically found only on the desktop interfaces, including roadside assistance, targeted promotions, claim submissions and deductible management.

MyMenu, a startup to provide restaurant information to mobile users, now deploys IBM's services to run its back-end software, allowing the company to scale up operations as it gains more customers. Bluemix allows the company to add more features that are being demanded by its users, as well as provide potentially valuable customer metrics to participating restaurants.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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