IBM cloud chief: The next phase of cloud is a race to add value

Robert LeBlanc explains how IBM’s portfolio of SoftLayer IaaS, BlueMix PaaS and cognitive Watson services add value atop basic cloud services

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What they need to know is that you have the capacity they need when they need it so it provides an elastic service and, by the way, do I have the additional value-added services that enable me to do something or build something that I couldn’t otherwise do if I wasn’t on a cloud like the IBM Cloud? We’re continuing to invest but we’re investing for value and not for size. As long as I’m at a cost competitive point, I’d rather provide additional value than just more of the basics.

BB: Is that Infrastructure-as-a-Service component still important? How big of an operation is that for IBM compared to the other public cloud components that you’re talking about like hosting?

It’s as important to me as it is to every other single provider. It’s no less important. It’s a basis of our strategy going forward just like it’s a basis of all their strategies going forward. But when you think about it, some of them can add it because they’re supporting a big business, a retail business or they’re coming at it because they have a large Software-as-a-Service business or they’re supporting all of their advertising and search business. We’re all in it not only for being a public cloud provider but for all the capability that we support in the businesses.

If you look at IDC data and where they position us in terms of volume and revenue and everything else, we are a major player. I don’t get enamored with being bigger than somebody else. I really look at whether I’m providing more value. I have very little discussion about infrastructure with clients. Most of the discussions I have with clients tend to be around hybrid, tend to be about the architecture that enables them to build new capabilities, to get access to new functions that they can build into their business models, into their business processes.

JG: I want to shift over to the Platform-as-a-Service market and make sure people understand the strategy there. Can you help them by comparing your Bluemix approach with something like Microsoft Azure?

There are a couple things that we focus in on Platform-as-a-Service. One is the DevOps environment. When you’re building for the cloud, the next-generation of applications you’re building differently, the processes are different, the tooling is different. In our platform we support a lot of open tools. Unlike some of the others that say no, you have to use my tools to run on my cloud, we allow the client to bring the tools that they’re familiar with. That’s why we’ve done partnerships with players like GitHub and others. We allow them to bring in whatever tools their developers are used to and we help them build out the tool chain.

We help them integrate these open tools and allow them to build a true DevOps environment inside our PaaS. Some of the providers support the open tools but they haven’t integrated any of the tools. Some of them have all the tools and no integration. We’re trying to bring the best of both of those worlds.

The other one is we support applications to be built locally. Think of that as private clouds, dedicated clouds and open clouds. Our Bluemix platform supports clients building applications that may be targeted at any one of those cloud environments whether it be private, dedicated or open clouds. That’s another differentiation. The other one is in the access to all of the services. For instance, our analytics services, I have access links to those analytics services on the public cloud, on the dedicated cloud, on the local cloud so the client can make the decision and the decision is based on where their data is, not where the function is running, as an example.

JG: What are you doing to get more developers to build on the Bluemix platform, especially emerging companies?

We’ve got a very good mix between startup companies and enterprise companies. We’ve got now well over a million users on Bluemix and adding quite a few every single week. We continue to add capabilities. Developers will go where they see function, where they see value and that’s what we’re really focused in on. Some developers are in enterprises; some of them are in small companies. When you look at it, the technology in the whole cloud is actually leveling the playing field. We look at providing capability for all and also building an ecosystem of third-party services.

That’s why things like VMware, Box and Apple, SAP and GitHub and all the partnerships we do are important because we’re also enabling them to expose their capability on top of our platform, therefore providing more capability to our clients.

JG: What’s the single most important thing you want the CIO or senior IT executive to understand about IBM’s cloud strategy?

You want choice with consistency. Therefore, you want to be able to build out your next-generation system to deal with digital disruption and choose what makes sense to your company: public, private or a dedicated cloud on the public cloud. You want to make sure you have the ability to utilize the next generation of skills, the next generation of tools, the next generation of technology to build all that innovation into your business, whether it be into your business model or your business process. If all you’re going to do is take an application and move it to the public cloud, you’re probably not bringing business value because the business doesn’t care if it runs in the cloud or runs in the closet. What they’re looking for is new capability, new function and when you think about the cloud and the cloud bringing new data sources, combining those data sources with data sources I have today, you provide new insight. New insight provides new opportunity for business model transformation, for business process transformation. Those are the kinds of discussions that I tend to have with clients.

This story, "IBM cloud chief: The next phase of cloud is a race to add value " was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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