IBM Cloud services guide: The right tools for the job

Most customers choose IBM Cloud service because they are already an IBM shop, but other enterprises should give it a look as well

IBM Cloud services guide: The right tools for the job

IBM was a bit late to the cloud party but has since caught up and is growing quickly. It trades third and fourth place with Google from one market research report to the next, but it is growing quickly.

The company’s first cloud computing effort came in 2008 with a software-as-a-service collaboration suite called LotusLive, which was later was renamed IBM SmartCloud for Social Business. IBM jumpstarted its cloud effort with the 2013 acquisition of SoftLayer, then the world’s largest privately held cloud computing infrastructure provider. It launched a PaaS service called Bluemix, and then added its Watson AI services.

Finally, in late 2017, the company reorganized its offerings into one unit. SoftLayer, Bluemix, and Watson were all moved under one umbrella, and with it IBM Cloud was born. It has more than 170 IBM services, from legacy to modern, including:

  • Compute, network, and storage
  • Management and security
  • Analytics
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Internet of things (IoT)
  • Blockchain
  • Integration and migration

And it is backed by IBM Global Services for onsite consulting and assistance.

Like using Azure is logical for Microsoft customers, using IBM Cloud makes sense if you are an IBM shop. But IBM Cloud may make sense for non-IBM shops as well.

Modernizing legacy apps and extending on-prem apps to the cloud

One of the chief reasons people choose IBM Cloud is because they have a significant investment in legacy IBM technologies. Staying with IBM makes it easier to migrate to the cloud and switch from a capex model to an opex model, and perhaps reduce costs.

To move your apps to the cloud, you start with IBM Cloud Migration Service, which automates the migration of on-premises apps to the cloud. It assesses the operating requirements and monitors the migration process to make sure the app is working right when in the cloud.

IBM Cloud Managed Services can help companies modernize their SAP and Oracle apps and run them in production on the IBM Cloud. There is also IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions for migrating on-premises VMs to the IBM Cloud.

For apps that need to remain on-premises, there is IBM Cloud Private, which basically creates a cloud-like operating environment in your data center. This lets you create virtual machines running containers into which you migrate your apps to a more flexible and scalable container environment.

Services for migration and integration

IBM Cloud offers services to help developers migrate their data and workloads from their own systems and onto the cloud. IBM also has tools to make management of multiple cloud environments less complex; many firms use multicloud environments to avoid vendor lockin.

IBM offers services for migrating WebSphere, Java EE, and DB2, among other IBM properties, to the cloud. This is done through IBM Cloud Migration Services and IBM Cloud Deployment Services, using IBM Blueprints.

To manage this, IBM’s Cloud Integration platform provides a single control point to a portfolio of technologies, including messaging, API management, app integration, high-speed file transfer, and secure gateway. It connects data and apps across clouds, and can deploy on-premises or in a combination of private and public clouds. If you have a lot of data to move to the cloud, you can use IBM’s Mass Data Migration device, which is sent to your premises and installed in the data center to move up to 120TB of data.

For customers who want full control over the underlying platform, there is IBM Cloud bare metal servers, which offers both Xeon and Power8-based systems for what is essentially a hosted data center environment, not a true cloud environment. You provide the operating system and have the hardware all to yourself.

Cloud-native development and devops

PaaS sprung up due to developer’s need for a developmental working space and not wanting to wait weeks for one on-premises. Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure have both made significant headway around cloud-native development and devops, but so has IBM.

It starts with IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service, available on PaaS and bare metal. IBM’s managed Kubernetes service provides intelligent scheduling, self-healing, horizontal scaling, service discovery load balancing, and automated rollouts and rollbacks.

For companies experimenting with serverless computing, IBM offers IBM Cloud Functions for developing lightweight code that scalably executes on demand. IBM Cloud Functions is based on Apache OpenWhisk, which provides serverless execution of lightweight code.

IBM has a fairly sizable collection of devops tools, including continuous delivery, availability monitoring, and devops Insight. With these services, developers can automate builds, unit tests, deployments, and run tests from locations around the world to detect and fix performance issues before they affect users.

IBM also has Application Development Services, which provides clients with application development and integration, testing, API and microservices architecture and devops services for building their apps before they deploy them. This is done in the IBM Cloud Garage, a collaborative workspace staffed by experts in vertical fields who help analyze customer apps in development and guide the development process.

Continuous security and protection of data

IBM Watson Regulatory Compliance, powered by Watson, is designed to help financial services institutions effectively track their regulatory compliance efforts.

IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Services is designed to protect data at rest, in transit, and in memory, with new services running on Z/LinuxOne in the IBM Cloud. Another mainframe-powered service is IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Crypto Service, which provides encryption and key management services backed by IBM Z’s cryptographic hardware, which meets the FIPS 140-2 Level 4 standard.

IBM Cloud Key Protect is a cloud-based security service that provides life cycle management for encryption keys used in IBM Cloud services or customer-built applications. Key Protect is backed by a Cloud HSM that meets the FIPS 140-2 Level 2 standard.

IBM provides tools that help developers build security into the devops process, ensure their code is free from vulnerabilities, and ensure that operational risks are clearly understood. It also builds services into the apps for protection of data, such as IBM Cloud App ID for helping developers easily add authentication to their web and mobile apps with few lines of code, and IBM Cloud Internet Services for edge network security and protection from DDoS attacks, data theft, and bot attacks.

Services for AI

All the major cloud providers have AI and machine learning offerings, but IBM may have an edge because it has been investing in its Watson AI services for several years before AI really took off. Forrester Research has noted IBM’s developer-friendly tools and enterprise expertise requirements for conversational computing (chatbots) and machine learning.

It starts with IBM Watson Platform, which offers multiple AI services (including speech, vision, and language APIs), as well as Watson Studio, its cloud-native environment for building and training AI models that work with structured, semistructured, and unstructured data. Watson Studio includes Watson machine learning and deep learning as a service.

Watson Assistant is a hosted SaaS application, running in the IBM Cloud, that lets organizations easily build engaging conversational solutions that scale. CAD software developer Autodesk used Watson Assistant to build customer support apps and was able to cut customer resolution time from 38 hours to just 5.4 minutes for most inquiries and cut cost per case to $1 from a range of $15 to $200, IBM says.

Watson Assistant is available for 20 segments, including general customer care and the automotive, hospitality, health care, financial services, travel, and retail industries.

For the emerging IoT market, IBM offers IBM Watson Internet of Things Platform, a hub for IBM Watson IoT that lets developers communicate with and consume data from connected devices and gateways. Developers can use the built-in web console dashboards to monitor IoT data and analyze it in real time. It also allows developers to build and connect apps with messaging and REST APIs.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.