I see IBM as the sleeping giant of cloud service providers. Large enterprises don't take Amazon seriously, and they'll put up with Salesforce if they have to, but IBM is a different story. Anything you pay that much for has got to be beyond reproach.
Last week at the IBM Impact show in Las Vegas, I spoke with Steve Mills, IBM's head of software, and Walter Falk, IBM business development executive for cloud computing, about IBM's plans for cloud services. The news of the week was that the company had acquired Cast Iron Systems, makers of a cloud integration appliance primarily designed to help customers integrate SaaS apps with their local enterprise applications. IBM also opened up a big cloud research facility in Singapore and unveiled a new cloud certification program.
[ David Linthicum, InfoWorld's cloud computing blogger, has a unique perspetive on IBM's acquisition of Cast Iron Systems. | Get the no-nonsense advice you need to take advantage of cloud computing in InfoWorld editors' 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report. ]
But for me the big story is that launch time is approaching for IBM Smart Business Development and Test on the IBM Cloud, as it is awkwardly named. As Walter Falk told me, "It's all being built out of the Raleigh data center for the North American market. We are very close to going live. We are right now in beta and we have more than a 100 customers and partners testing it out. It's relatively quiet, I would say, because we really want to build this rock solid."
"Quiet" is the operative word to describe IBM's approach to cloud services. Most people don't know, for example, that IBM offers hosted desktop virtualization in the form of Smart Business Desktop on the IBM Cloud. Why the low-key approach? Well, for one thing, IBM has provided the infrastructure for many SaaS players over the years and probably does not want to be seen as competing with customers. For another, I think IBM wants to be very, very certain its cloud services are seen as enterprise-class.
When I asked Steve Mills about that, he was emphatic: "Yes, we have to provide guarantees. We have to do that. That's what we're expected to do." He is equally insistent that IBM believes in the hybrid cloud model, where customers' private cloud services integrate with the public cloud. No company of any size is going to deep-six the data center and shove everything on the public cloud.
Mills sees dev and test as a relatively easy space to go after first. "It has this sort of variable overflow characteristic to it. You know, project start and stop ... it lends itself to this. And you're not caught in the middle of mission-critical production, obviously. So dev and test is a good place to bring these kinds of services."
Nonetheless, Mills says, IBM will bring its enterprise approach to the dev and test platform. "If somebody wants to do testing with live data, then will you protect the live data? What certainties are being provided by the vendor?" IBM clearly intends to deliver those kinds of controls. Falk adds that Rational tools will be available on the site, along with development and testing tools from partners such as WaveMaker, which offers its own enterprise Web development platform.
"This summer you will see the general availability of the IBM Cloud," says Falk, but he's not willing to provide specifics beyond the initial dev and test offering. The most I could get out of him was that the IBM Cloud will be "focusing on industry-oriented services and capabilities." Makes sense, given that over the past few years the company has pushed ever deeper into frameworks and business processes for vertical industries.
So get ready for the IBM Cloud. And it's coming with a big fat blue guarantee.
This article, "Get ready for the IBM Cloud," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter and on your mobile device at infoworldmobile.com.