Back in 2010, IBM laid out a clear cloud computing road map: to build a rock-solid cloud portfolio suited to meet enterprise demands. Gradually, Big Blue has revealed the fruits of its labors, rolling out IaaS and PaaS services, complementary appliances, and analytics capabilities under the SmartCloud umbrella, all geared toward Fortune 500-caliber organizations.
Today, IBM revealed the next critical step in its march toward enterprise cloud delivery: the acquisition of public-cloud services provider SoftLayer, whose technology IBM will combine with its SmartCloud to make a global platform as part of a new Cloud Services division.
IBM's decision to snag SoftLayer to augment its limited public cloud options makes sense. From an enterprise perspective, SoftLayer's services are subjectively superior to, say, Amazon Web Services, offering greater flexibility, more configuration options, and increased security, and SoftLayer has established a worldwide presence with some 21,000 customers and 13 data centers in the United States, Asia, and Europe.
InfoWorld Contributing Editor Peter Wayner took SoftLayer for a test-drive earlier this year, and he was impressed by the fine-grained configuration options and high performance of the company's self-service cloud. For example, SoftLayer lets you tailor your servers to your liking, including the number of cores and the amount of RAM. Users can opt for their own personal bare-metal machines, a feature that AWS doesn't provide. Wayner also found that SoftLayer offered four pages' worth of configuration options, compared to the few radio buttons that other cloud providers offer.
Additionally, SoftLayer provides a private network option for back-channel communications among machines. Each server has one address for talking to the Internet at large and one for talking just to the private network. "If you want to keep some servers in the background, out of view of the Wild West of the Internet, you can open up the ports on this private network. This channel makes it simpler to enforce some rules by locking out the public Internet in one swoop," Wayner wrote.
SoftLayer's architecture's also includes a software-definable environment and an automated networking infrastructure that supports public, private, and data-center-to-data-center architectures.
IBM expects that SoftLayer's approach to public cloud makes it an ideal addition to its existing OpenStack-based SmartCloud portfolio, suitable for winning over companies wary of public cloud insecurity and hybrid cloud complexity. "As businesses add public cloud capabilities to their on-premise IT systems, they need enterprise-grade reliability, security and management," said Erich Clementi, senior VP of IBM Global Technology Services. "With SoftLayer, IBM will accelerate the build-out of our public cloud infrastructure to give clients the broadest choice of cloud offerings to drive business innovation."
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