PaaS reviews

Review: IBM Bluemix bulks up Cloud Foundry

IBM's full-featured PaaS wows with Watson and an amazing array of services, but many are not yet ready for prime time

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As you might expect, two of the five Bluemix big data services are based on IBM BigInsights for Hadoop, one a single-node implementation and one clustered. The other three are a time-series database built on Informix, Geospatial Analytics, and the dashDB data warehousing and BI/analytics solution.

The one business analytics service in Bluemix is Embeddable Reporting, which lets you run IBM Cognos Business Intelligence reports within your Bluemix environment. The business analytics service runs against supported JDBC data source connections.

In the security area, Bluemix offers AppScan for Web, AppScan for Android, and SSO (single sign-on). The SSO service combines BYO social IDs, IBM IDs, and multifactor authentication.

Bluemix at your service

That’s a lot of Bluemix services. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, many of them are still experimental, in beta, or have restrictions that make them inappropriate for most production apps. The Watson services, potentially the biggest differentiator of Bluemix versus other Cloud Foundry implementations, are all beta, and mostly restricted to limited domains.

Fortunately, the remaining services tend to be very robust. I wouldn’t hesitate to build a Web or mobile project on Bluemix, whether it was a green field app for a startup or a brown field app for an enterprise that needed to integrate legacy servers and systems of record.

I would, however, take a hard look at the security and regulatory requirements of the app. Bluemix can handle EU geographical data requirements, as it has a data center in London. It may eventually be certified for compliance with FIPS, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS at the data center level; right now it’s at an early stage of those processes.

I scored Bluemix higher than Cloud Foundry because of the way it has filled in the gaps in the open source Cloud Foundry implementation. Management, installation, and setup are better because Bluemix does all the heavy lifting internally. I scored documentation the same for both products; Bluemix is a little better documented, but only a partial point worth, and we use integer scores.

I scored both Bluemix and Cloud Foundry (emphasizing the Pivotal implementations) a 9 for value, but for somewhat different reasons. Essentially, the Bluemix value proposition is that you can start for free, run small for free, and pay as you go as you scale out. It looks to me like the free Bluemix runtime allotments are generous enough to get most people started without a lot of friction. Presumably, by the time your app has blown through the limits of the free tiers, you’ll have a good idea of the return on investment on your app, and you can either justify the cost or pull the plug.

At a Glance
  • IBM Bluemix has filled a number of gaps in Cloud Foundry without forking the code. It offers a compelling lineup of IBM and third-party services, including Watson cognitive services, but many of these services are currently in a limited and/or beta form.

    Pros

    • Multitenant hosted PaaS builds on Cloud Foundry code but does not fork the code
    • Adds many capabilities from IBM and other vendors, including Watson services and autoscaling
    • Includes MBaaS, big data, and devops services
    • Has easy ways to integrate legacy enterprise applications, databases, and services
    • Offers Docker containers as a service

    Cons

    • No private cloud or on-premise/hybrid options yet
    • Not yet certified for compliance with security standards such as FIPS

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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