IBM's startup guy: We're cracking new markets

Drew Clark expounds on IBM's prolific partnerships with vertical analytics startups -- and hints at new public cloud services from IBM

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Clark: It might even be unrealistic.

Knorr: It is unrealistic.

Clark: I mean, how much can you really scale some of that stuff before you lose the whole advantage?

Knorr: Since you're a longtime observer of the scene, I'm interested in your qualitative take on what's happening with mainstream IT. Traditionally, the center of the world has been the data center. What's your sense of the mood there? Or do you deal with that culture that much anymore?

Clark: We do. IBM holds CIO conferences every year, and we bring in the CIOs from our top customers. They were way ahead of us. They were already deploying clouds. They were already figuring out the balance between public and private clouds. Let's just say it's been recommended to them that they really start to adopt the cloud and deploy and mobile devices and all that. I know in some cases it's felt a bit like a loss of control. But in other cases, I think they've gleefully done it because it offers a chance to really align with the business. That's really what IT craves. And I think that the adopters of cloud, the advocates, are the CEO and the business units, not the CIOs.

Knorr: That's exactly right.

Clark: Sometimes the CIO comes naturally along with them, sometimes they drag their heels. But in a lot of cases I think the CIO has turned a challenge into an opportunity. And I think that all of our major customers have a program somewhere and they're somewhere along the path.

But I think the change we're starting to see is that IT departments have now got a vision for how they're going to make it work. And I think the BYOD thing is playing into that. Some of the more interesting things I heard from these CIOs were where the BYOD and the cloud come together -- because they see this as a unique opportunity to kill a lot of birds with one stone. They can see that if they go and they build a private cloud, let's say, a platform, and they industrialize some of their systems and put APIs in place, that they can accommodate a lot of the BYOD stuff a lot more easily.

Knorr: That's an interesting point. How does that work?

Clark: Instead of having them come to me one by one with the latest app of the day that they downloaded over the weekend, that they want me to support, what if I just install an app store on the cloud and kind of let them bring this stuff in and let them self-provision it?

A lot of customers are starting to think of building that nexus where those things come together and seeing that that is really a very efficient use of their resources. And it's delighting the end users because they feel like, OK, now this guy is on my team and we're doing it right. The CEO is happy because they're getting the cloud systems built, and they're getting what they want.

Knorr: Yet on the ground, there's the data center itself, which is still a mess in a lot of large organizations. And there are various private cloud efforts there that are trying to rationalize that. OpenStack, for example -- that's just an explosive ecosystem.

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