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IBM’s Cloud Evolution Accelerating

What is Happening?

ISG Insights Principal Analyst Charlie Burns attended the IBM Cloud Analyst Summit at the headquarters for the Cloud business unit in New York City. From the opening session it was clear that IBM wanted to convey that the company is totally committed to assisting enterprises adopt and manage a hybrid cloud infrastructure and deliver accelerating revenue growth for the company. This Research Alert highlights some of the key takeaways from the event.

Bryson Koehler, CTO & GM of IBM Watson and Cloud Platform, kicked the day off, highlighting advances IBM has made in its Cloud offering over the past year including:

  • Services. IBM Cloud is now a full hyperscale platform consisting of over 450 services, with 127 customer-facing services.
  • Deployment Options. IBM has focused on ease of use, consistency, agility across three deployment options (Public, Dedicated, and IBM Cloud Private announced concurrently with the Analyst Summit and provides IBM cloud on enterprise IT premises).
  • Availability zones. IBM has standardized and is actively implementing availability zones and regions with new sites opening frequently.

Next Denis Kennelly, GM, IBM Hybrid Cloud, then explained the two strategies underlying IBM Cloud:

  • Hybrid. Match the right cloud to the right workload is optimal and requires a Hybrid environment.
  • Containers. Deliver all IBM Cloud services in Kubernetes containers. The commitment to containers was clearly demonstrated by a long list of IBM software that has already been repackaged to operate as services in containers on the three deployment options of IBM Cloud.

Through additional presentations and breakout sessions IBM repeatedly delivered three key messages. First, IBM is committed to deliver the best functionality and services to support enterprises as they implement Hybrid Cloud environments (i.e., environments that utilize one or more variations of Cloud possibly combined with traditional in-house infrastructure). Second, IBM will use Watson capabilities in all appropriates aspects of cloud operations and workload management. And, third, IBM will continue to expand support, security, and ease-of-use of big data and analytics including IOT.

Why is it Happening?

For several years ISG Insights research has shown that there are various types of workloads being implemented on cloud-based platforms. We have characterized these as: cloud enabled, cloud exploitive, cloud native. As shown in Figure 1, Faiyaz Shahpurwala, GM, IBM Watson and Cloud Platform, discussed how IBM is aggressively pursuing all three types (albeit, using different names) because their enterprise clients are aggressively implementing all three types.

IBM Cloiud Transformation Patterns

Figure 1: IBM Hybrid Cloud Transformation Patterns. Source: IBM.

Net Impact

Our ongoing work with clients has identified two key capabilities that enterprise IT organizations are increasingly seeking:

  • Provider independence, i.e., flexibility in moving workloads across cloud platforms. Client justifications vary from accessing specific functions such as Google Maps or IBM Watson, to avoiding data transmission delays and costs. IBM’s container approach offers this independence and it is significant that IBM also stated their plans to qualify their software product containers on other cloud provider platforms.
  • Compatible Hybrid environment. As cloud usage continues to grow, enterprises are increasingly finding that workloads have unique infrastructure requirements due to factors ranging from technical characteristics to operational requirements to industry and government regulations. This range of factors demands a Hybrid environment. But, some enterprises are recognizing belatedly that these factors are not necessarily static and can require workloads to be moved. Thus, the cloud components (i.e., public, dedicated, and private) of a hybrid environment must be compatible. This is what IBM is delivering.

However, competitive cloud providers (e.g., AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform) are not conceding in the overall race for market share. And, we observe the following challenges that IBM Cloud must overcome:

  • Accelerate. The IBM Cloud team must continue to deliver an increasing array of coordinated services that provide cross-industry and industry-specific value.
  • Communicate. IBM must communicate a roadmap for major investments and functionality. Enterprise IT executives value roadmaps that identify directions and provide a vision that can be used as they refine their own strategies and identify their requirements.
  • Aggressively pursue enterprise “shadow IT”. Significant cloud adoption within an enterprise occurs outside of IT organization. IBM needs to establish an image that the IBM Cloud is easier to use and cost competitive with the other providers.

Possibly the best summation of IBM’s strategy and direction for Cloud remains a quote from the 2015 IBM Cloud Analyst Summit: “Our job is not to invent the future, but to integrate the future.”