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's just the hottest thing in cloud right now. It's good-quality stuff, too. I think it's really shaken up conventional wisdom about the cloud.

Knorr: IBM has been kind of tentative as far as OpenStack is concerned.

Clark: I think ... well, we have a lot of ... what should I say? We have a lot of work to do in delivering the solutions that our clients are asking for now, just within the framework of what we offer. But I think looking longer term, OpenStack has to be factored into what we're doing because our clients are starting to ask about it also. I think you'll see a day when our systems will work with an OpenStack configuration. I can't be more specific than that.

Knorr: What about the public cloud? IBM's already into it, although not in a very public way. IBM has not talked much about public cloud services.

Clark: I think that's going to change, and I've always been open with you about what's changing. Just last fall we announced a SmartCloud enterprise. And they had a lot of elements of public cloud in them that we maybe didn't articulate loudly enough, but they're there. But I think you're going to see more of that in one particular area at least, and that's the PaaS area, which is a very dear spot of mine.

The value of the cloud is unlocked at the PaaS level, so we're very eager to start putting more of our industry frameworks and our middleware up at a level that can be more easily leveraged by entrepreneurs.

Knorr: I think the IBM brand can infuse a lot of life into PaaS because right now it's really small, independent ISVs, game developers. There's not a whole lot of enterprise activity on PaaS.

Clark: For apps that make sense to be in the public cloud, why not attract enterprises too? We also think it would be interesting to provide a platform for IBM to expose some of its own things that we haven't before -- things like our middleware, like Tivoli, that kind of stuff.

Imagine what you could do if you had analytics as a service running. We've been talking about all of these [SmartCities] apps being analytical apps. How are they going to take advantage of the heavy lifting we do with SPSS and Cognos and other things, if we don't make [analytics] available as a service to them, as an API?

Knorr: That would make a heck of a cloud service.

Clark: You might find this hard to believe, but the app development part of it is probably the least important piece of it. I mean, we have partners. There are good companies out there that can do the app [dev platform] -- we can get Engine Yard and Zend and those guys. They can do a lot of the DevOps and app development piece here.

What's interesting, though, is the value that we think IBM could add is all the other pieces. Analytics, storage -- who knows? I mean think of all the as-a-services that we could stub into here and make available to all three of these guys.

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