BlueMix represents the next step in the transformation of IBM’s cloud offering

Gary Barnett, Enterprise Mobility and Productivity Software

At IBM Innovate 2014 in Orlando, Florida, IBM announced that its BlueMix PaaS offering will be made generally available at the end of June. BlueMix was first launched as a beta program in February this year at IBM’s Pulse conference, and the platform has seen a considerable amount of development in the four months since its first unveiling.

BlueMix is based on CloudFoundry, and runs on IBM’s SoftLayer cloud infrastructure management platform. IBM has also integrated DevOps services (both from the open source world and from its Rational portfolio), along with a number of pre-built services from IBM and its partners presented via a highly polished user interface (the result of BlueMix being one of the first projects to benefit from IBM’s major Design initiative).

While IBM will be targeting enterprise developers with BlueMix, there is also a significant opportunity to attract new, non-traditional, IBM clients

IBM enterprise clients that already use IBM’s middleware and development tools should definitely trial BlueMix. IBM sees these clients as a key priority as it builds out the platform.

IBM should also take advantage of the opportunity that BlueMix creates to attract new clients from smaller organizations. While IBM will remain focused on the larger enterprises that make up the bulk of its revenues, if it can deliver the right engagement model, it could attract a significant number of smaller organizations to the platform, many of which would not normally be attracted to IBM’s Rational tools.

BlueMix represents the next step in the transformation of IBM’s cloud offering

IBM’s acquisition of SoftLayer in 2013 marked an important development for the company as it signaled renewed investment by IBM in both its cloud offering and the way it brings that offering to market.

One of the most important factors is the breadth of technology that IBM can offer when it comes to cloud, from WebSphere, Tivoli, and Rational, coupled with its clear intention to ensure its different product groups work together more closely than ever before. This transition away from product silos toward solution portfolios brings two benefits: first, it makes it easier for clients to assemble the technologies that they need to effectively exploit the cloud, and second, it makes it harder for competitors to characterize IBM’s offering as “complex” rather than “flexible.”

PaaS offers IBM more opportunity to differentiate than IaaS

The infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) market continues to evolve, causing the distinction between IaaS and PaaS to become increasingly blurred. Alongside the other leading players, IBM doesn’t want to be engaged in a commoditized segment in which all of the players are trapped in an economic race to the bottom. By focusing on PaaS, without necessarily giving up on its IaaS offering, IBM is playing to its strengths by competing in a space where value-added services provide an opportunity to differentiate well beyond price per cpu second.

BlueMix is much more than “Cloud Foundry with a pretty UI”

When IBM announced that it had joined the Cloud Foundry community (alongside the likes of Pivotal, EMC, HP, SAP, and Rackspace), it seemed evident that Cloud Foundry was set to play an important role in IBM’s PaaS plans, but BlueMix is far more than a rebadged version of Cloud Foundry that has been given a UI makeover. BlueMix provides an array of services over and above Cloud Foundry’s packaging technology (build packs) by offering a combination of IBM and Community developed runtimes that radically reduce the time (and effort) involved in creating new environments. The current list is limited to Java (based on IBM’s Liberty server), JavaScript (based on Node.JS), and Ruby on Rails and Ruby Sinatra (the latter two being contributed by the community), but IBM is clearly keen to grow the number of runtime environments that BlueMix supports. We expect PHP to join the list via a community supported runtime before too long.

In addition to the core runtimes, BlueMix also hosts a rapidly growing array of add-on services covering application management, data storage, integration, and DevOps, as well as higher-level services that developers can incorporate into their application. For example, Pitney Bowes offers a Geocoding service on the platform. These services will be available via a range of licensing models, with “pay per use” likely to be the most prevalent, giving third parties a commercial incentive to offer their services on the platform.

BlueMix has the potential to offer the rest of the world the kind of experience that .NET developers enjoy with Azure

The BlueMix platform is the closest we’ve seen to something that can match Microsoft’s Azure when it comes to the developer experience. If IBM continues to enhance the platform and can bring on enough partners, BlueMix could transform the PaaS market.

IBM has yet to announce what the commercial terms of the platform will be once it is generally available. The company needs to continue to attract partners from both the commercial world and the world of open source, so the onus is on IBM to translate this potential into actual success, but the potential is certainly there. IBM also needs to constantly remind itself that it is not the only company seeking to develop a richly featured, developer-friendly PaaS offering. Amazon, for example, has been actively climbing up the cloud stack with its Elastic Beanstalk initiative.

The post BlueMix represents the next step in the transformation of IBM’s cloud offering appeared first on Ovum.

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