Are IBM's video investments paying off?

Big Blue is spending up large on a few key strategic directions. Is its video strategy delivering the goods?

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Credit: iStockphoto

IBM has moved, in the past few years, beyond its more traditional hardware and service offerings and has branched out into a number of different areas. It acquired The Weather Company to fuel its Watson big data platform with screeds of data, it acquired SoftLayer to deliver a meaningful public cloud platform and it even decided that video was in its future and acquired Ustream and Clearleap as the launching pad for a new cloud video unit.

Only a few months have passed since those acquisitions and the announcement of the new unit, and so it seems a little early to expect results yet. But after spending some time talking with Braxton Jarratt, head of IBM's video unit, at the IBM Connections Conference in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, and tying in with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show occurring this week in Vegas, it seems timely to check in with IBM and see how the cloud unit is doing at the box office.

So, what has Jarratt and co got to report to date?

IBM Cloud Video powers Comic-Con HQ video channel

Comic-Con HQ is a partnership between Comic-Con International and Lionsgate. The partnership has selected IBM Cloud Video's Clearleap platform to power its new subscription video-on-demand platform. IBM's part of the deal is to offer the technology behind subscriber and content management, billing and video compatibility on multiple devices. IBM will also power the ad-free streaming video platform's live-streamed video productions.

AOL (yes, it still exists) signs up to IBM for media production and distribution

IBM is using the NAB show to announce that AOL is using Big Blue's high-speed transfer and automation software to serve as the backbone of its new media management platform. Utilizing technology from yet another of IBM's multitudinous acquisitions, Aspera, the solution provides high performance transfers between bicoastal production facilities and to and from their cloud-based media asset management system. AOL's properties (think The Huffington Post, TechCrunch and Engadget) will all leverage the solution to deliver high-performance video to readers.

CBC's video service taps IBM for tech-smarts

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada's national public broadcaster, is using IBM to bring its ad-supported streaming video service to Canadians. The solution sees CBC content delivered across the Web and mobile devices and covers a library of over 600 CBC titles. IBM is providing technology to cover off a number of CBC's needs including closed captioning and described video, complete search and discover functionality, and management of a consistent cross-screen viewing experience.

IBM is (rightfully) crowing about all of these deals, and newly minted exec Jarratt is crowing more than most. "IBM is at a forefront of the industry at a time when video is the driving influence in how organizations communicate, share information, and entertain," he said. "Today's announcements will be viewed as a significant milestone in the company's cloud video strategy, as IBM makes the sharing, distribution and management of video increasingly simple across any device."


Digital video is a huge proportion of workloads, both generally and in the cloud specifically. Some predict that 80% of all Internet traffic by 2019 will be video related. It is, therefore, a natural area for IBM to get into, one where it can leverage its existing general cloud assets with specific technologies built on top of that. That is what the Clearleap, Ustream and Aspera deals were all about.

Of course, other vendors do great work with video -- Microsoft in particular has gotten lots of leverage around work it did alongside the Summer and Winter Olympics.

After only three months of operation, this is a positive progress report for IBM but, as always, the proof is in the details -- it would be interesting to know how sweet the deals were that IBM had to cut these three organizations to get them to sign up. it will also be interesting to see what sort of revenue figures IBM can gain from the unit. Good progress, but more to come.

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