A spate of enterprise cloud announcements from IBM should keep legacy customers satisfied as Big Blue attempts to deliver genuinely new, cutting-edge products for enterprise developers.
The sheer amount of legacy and last-generation infrastructure -- from VMware to WebSphere -- all but guarantees a captive market. But IBM also aims to pull in new customers with latest-and-greatest technologies.
The old guard
Two recent announcements that revolve around legacy enterprise work involve familiar names: VMware and WebSphere. IBM plans to allow VMware vSphere, NSX, and Virtual SAN users to automatically extend their workloads into IBM Cloud, and to have IBM and VMware "jointly market and sell new offerings for hybrid cloud deployments," according to an IBM spokesperson.
In addition to leveraging the presence of VMware products in IBM's user base, it's also a poke at cloud kingpin Amazon, where the lack of a genuine enterprise hybrid strategy remains a major deficiency.
In the same vein, IBM is extending its venerable WebSphere enterprise product by way of IBM Cloud Connectors, a portfolio of products intended to deliver cloud services to WebSphere and vice versa. IBM hopes to give existing WebSphere apps a new lease on life by plugging them into new-breed cloud services -- for example, IBM's work with the blockchain, by way of WebSphere Blockchain Connect. IBM will deliver future WebSphere functionality by the same route.
In both cases, IBM is banking on the sheer number of existing deployments to pay off. VMware's presence in the enterprise is hard to ignore, and a great many legacy WebSphere installations are still puttering away behind the scenes. Hitching WebSphere to the growing volume of cloud-based IBM services helps protect it from irrelevance -- after all, when was the last time anyone mentioned WebSphere in anything but a near-historical context?
The new school
IBM is tending to its legacy customers, but the company is also paying attention to the latest generation of tooling for enterprise developers -- like GitHub, which has been under pressure to broaden the market for the enterprise edition of its code-hosting system. One logical way to do so is to deliver it on an already well-trafficked enterprise cloud; thus, IBM and GitHub have entered into a "first of a kind" partnership to deliver GitHub Enterprise as an IBM Bluemix-hosted service.
IBM's public cloud has been pushed as a front end for next-generation services like Watson, but most of its appeal has come from products that are familiar to enterprise developers -- Spark, Docker, and so on. That isn't to say Watson and its associated services are a waste of time, but little has been built with them that has had the same transformative effect as other (open source, largely non-proprietary) technologies.
IBM is wise to offer developers familiar, practical, and useful new tools as it goes head-to-head with the existing kings of cloud.