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Also posted on: The IM Blog
Perhaps it’s just me, but somehow I don’t think about IBM as a cloud provider. The company isn’t some whizzy start-up, it’s mature and experienced: it’s a mainframe vendor for God’s sake! All of which just goes to prove my ignorance: IBM actually announced what was then known as IBM SmartCloud as far back as 2007. Nevertheless, that was organised around WebSphere, Tivoli and so forth. Possibly wonderful but, sort of, more of the same but in a different place. Not whizzy. However, in the last couple of years IBM has become much more exciting from a cloud point of view, largely through acquisitions.
In a short article like this one I probably can’t begin to plumb the extent of IBM’s commitment to cloud but here are a few tasters and I’ll start with IBM SoftLayer, which is the company’s cloud platform. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert on cloud platforms so I have no idea how good or bad SoftLayer is. But what I do know is that I talk to more and more vendors that are deploying their software on SoftLayer as an early option. This suggests either that third party suppliers like the platform from a technical perspective or that IBM is getting significant traction with users, or both. In any case, a good thing. One notable feature of IBM’s implementation of SoftLayer is that it is taking the approach of implementing multiple (smaller) data centres across multiple countries. This is important where there are privacy regulations forbidding data to leave national borders.
The second thing I want to mention is Bluemix, which is a software development platform that runs on top of SoftLayer. What’s neat about it is that there are lots of pre-built mini-applications (some of which, like Watson User Modeling, are distinctly whizzy) and functions that IBM has built and which you can incorporate directly into your own applications, which may be conventional or mobile applications. Bluemix also offers a choice of compute options (Cloud Foundry, container-based [leveraging Docker] or virtual machines) and then manages the rest of the stack for you.
Next, there is IBM Cloudant, which is a JSON document-based database as a service offering that, once again, runs on SoftLayer but which will also run on other virtualised or bare-metal services. It is built on top of CouchDB and includes Lucene for full-text search, as well as having 2D and 3D geospatial indexing. Unlike many of its competitors it supports an unlimited number of secondary indexes and has the sort of high availability and scalability you would expect from IBM.
Finally, IBM has just announced a partnership with Box. Arguably, Box is less well-known than Dropbox but they are essentially in the same space in that Box is a cloud-based file sharing service and content management provider. Actually, there a load of suppliers in this space. IBM, of course, is interested in it from an enterprise perspective and it is likely that this partnership will significantly extend Box’s profile. It also demonstrates that while IBM itself may not be whizzy it is certainly interested in acquiring (SoftLayer and Cloudant) or partnering with (Box, Twitter, Apple) companies that fall into that category.