IBM is getting its cloud positioning right - at last!

IBM – as an IT provider – embraced the idea of cloud computing early on and has been a leader in this IT market segment ever since. However, IBM's cloud offerings could not clear the high hurdle of really becoming unique and non-interchangeable. It was a more or less exchangeable cloud offering although IBM had more fundamental cloud building blocks than practically any of its competitors.

This picture is changing slowly but also strongly with a long-term impact for the company. IBM is now forming a unique vision aligning all available offerings that build a basis for real differentiation.

In a recent cloud briefing with Linda Bernardi, IBM Chief Innovation Officer, Cloud & Internet of Things, a newly aligned overall cloud architecture and integrated services offerings emerged. The core building blocks now include:

  • the fluid integration of legacy and cloud resources through open stack and IBM Hybrid Cloud technology;
  • an enterprises-focused platform and open ecosystem for cloud data and services;
  • data analytics offerings, including machine learning;
  • an end-to-end architecture.

Obviously, large enterprises in particular will not base their complete IT infrastructure on public cloud offerings. However, they might deploy SaaS offerings from different vendors besides having their internal IT. Thus, there is strong need for an integration of IT service offerings coming from different sources. Here, IBM's experience and hybrid approach to cloud computing can excel. This also addresses customer requirements for a two-speed IT: stable systems in the backend and agile customer-facing systems.

Secondly, with Bluemix IBM has built a strong platform for developers to develop new SaaS apps and applications and deploy them in a cost-effective way on IBM's infrastructure. However, IBM's approach to build an ecosystem goes beyond the pure developer ecosystem. IBM is also engaging in cross-customer integration of business processes, digital transformation and disruptive offerings.

While IBM remains a solution provider for the enterprise, it wants to encourage its enterprise customers to create and manage business services that can finally address consumers. IBM wants to become the enabler for the orchestration of such ecosystems. This includes the integration of cloud platforms & services, cloud applications as well as on-premise IT from different vendors plus IBM's own assets.

With a focus on data analytics, IBM made it clear that it sticks to its core strength: storing, managing and analyzing large amounts of data. Part of this is the emergence of Watson analytics, advanced machine learning and the SyNAPSE project, where it may even develop more advanced analytics technologies. It is very likely that IBM will leave its competitors behind with its engagement in brain-like artificial and semiconductor-instrumented synapse-based computing.

Finally, part of IBM's strength is that enterprises need a redefined architecture to address the requirements for systems-of-record data differently than the requirements for systems-of-engagement data. On the one hand, IBM can put its SoftLayer offering for well-managed and cost-effective basic computing resources on the table; and on the other hand, IBM brings in an integrated mix of partner SaaS offerings (based on Bluemix) as well as highly sophisticated data analytics offerings in a hybrid cloud world.

Bottom line: Clearly, cloud computing has a disruptive potential for IT technology and IT departments. It took some time to adjust the broad IBM technology and services spectrum to this new IT world. However, focusing on IBM's core strength, this aligned cloud strategy will enable enterprises to benefit from the total customer focus.