IBM's Doug Clark on the company's move towards 'IBM as a service'

Earlier this week, IBM announced another series of cloudy launches, chief of which being the IBM Cloud Marketplace, a ‘one stop shop’ for IBM’s IaaS, PaaS and SaaS portfolio. CloudTech caught up with Doug Clark, cloud leader at IBM UK&I, to find out more.

“Everybody is moving to as-a-service,” Doug Clark, cloud leader at IBM UK&I says. “Almost the entire landscape is moving there.”

With the release of the IBM Cloud Marketplace, as CloudTech reported earlier this week, almost everything in IBM’s portfolio is available under one roof – it’s an enterprise app store with a little edge. More interestingly, the branding move towards ‘IBM-as-a-service’ is gathering pace.

“It was Ginny [Rometty, IBM chief exec] who I first heard talk about IBM-as-a-service,” Clark explains. “But what’s been exciting for me is when I’ve been talking to clients, I’ve been using the term ‘whatever your value proposition is, Mr. Client, as a service.’

“What I see is the market moving to ‘your value proposition as-a-service,” he adds. “I want IBM to be the essential partner to help facilitate that.”

Much has been made, even in these pages, about the wide ranging ecosystem Big Blue has at its disposal. From Watson, to the new PaaS offering BlueMix and the acquisition of SoftLayer – the latter two forming an integral part of the Marketplace – the latest announcement offers validation of these investments.

Yet there’s a more interesting play at stake. With the Marketplace, IBM is radically changing how it does business – from big software contracts, to the swipe of a credit card.

Clark notes that the move plays into ‘the API economy’, and adds it’s a sign of the times.

“Where before we might have very crisply segmented markets into partners, resellers, developers, ISVs, right the way up through into the enterprise space, what we’re starting to find more and more is these guys are all feeding out of the same pool,” he explains.

“No longer are clients only buying from one or two preferred vendors, or preferred suppliers, but actually they’re enjoying the opportunity that they’re able to more pick and mix, and use the best, the brightest, the freshest ideas.

He adds: “Plug and play was overused, but it’s like that – it’s almost worth dusting down that environment.”

Even though IBM is investing and innovating at a fair pace, it’s worth noting that other companies –, HP, Rackspace – have got marketplaces of their own. It’s increasingly becoming an important part of enterprise IT.

For Clark, a survey of IBM clients, entitled ‘Under Cloud Cover’, was the driving force behind this change. The document categorised clients’ cloud adoption into three categories – pacesetters, challengers and chasers.

“I don’t think I’m doing IBM a disservice by saying it really was evident from that survey, both the end of last year and beginning of this year,” he notes. “A lot of these observations, they’re happening in front of our eyes.

“These guys who are the pacesetter community, in the hearts and minds of the relationship and the ambitions that we have for all of our enterprise clients, it’s that kind of agility and growth that we want them all to enjoy as we’re coming out of this horrible recession.

“We’ve seen these guys have really grabbed it. And it was the outcome of that survey that really gave us some of these steers that actually, a composable standardised open platform that you can reside all of this stuff on would be not necessarily completely unique, but would really drive a lot of value add.”

Speaking to Clark last month about IBM’s overall strategy and the market position within it, he was at pains to point out that while IBM wasn’t ahead of the competition, its wide-ranging portfolio gave it every chance in the long run.

It’s a similar story today, and while the Cloud Marketplace represents the present, the emphasis is certainly on the future – and a 2015 roadmap laid out in 2010-11.

“I can’t see any of that slowing – if anything, I’ve noticed over the last few months almost an acceleration in that kind of activity,” Clark says. “I think you’ll just enjoy seeing much, much more of the same, to be honest.

“I am overwhelmed with the speed and the pace and the appetite this market is bringing, and I’m chuffed that IBM is right in the middle of it. I know we’re not the only game in town, but we’re actively helping shape this, and I think that’s what our type of clients expect of us.”

Read more:
- IBM launches enterprise cloud marketplace, talks of “next major step” in portfolio
- IBM's cloud strategy: Will it become the best in the business?

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