IBM (NYSE: IBM) hosted two separate analyst events recently in New York City, one on cloud and one on IBM Services, both of which highlighted the company’s strategy of marketing unified and straightforward messaging around the cognitive and cloud markets. Throughout the cloud event, IBM repeatedly emphasized the seamless interaction of its various IP assets built on top of open standards such as Cloud Foundry, the flexible choice this affords its enterprise customers, and the simple starting points IBM Cloud provides for the developer communities to sandbox new use cases IBM Cloud and Cognitive assets offer to enterprises and small startups alike.

Irrespective of client consumption preferences, IBM Cloud has the composable cloud and data services to optimize the instances for client requirements

IBM took great pains to articulate the efforts it has made in the past 18 months to build out a breadth of services designed around a single construct that can underpin the entire organization. Hand in hand with the technological aspects has been IBM’s effort to gradually shift the branding of its IP assets. Gone are the names SoftLayer and Bluemix, for example, as the company simply talks about IBM Cloud being capable of matching the right cloud to the right workload. Similarly, IBM has shifted its development attention from OpenStack to Cloud Foundry, providing the more opinionated infrastructure policies necessary for the deployment and seamless interoperability among different clouds and on-premises instances as required in the emerging data economy.

Citing a McKinsey Global Institute study that indicated up to 30% of human tasks can be automated in 60% of all jobs worldwide, IBM pointed to customers’ need to transform their entire business operations to strip rote human tasks from processes to stay competitive. Building out its cloud architecture around the rigor inherent in the Cloud Foundry architecture represents its platform simplification efforts, which are rooted in reducing manual tasks for customers in the pursuit of overhead expense reduction critical to pivoting to the digital economy.

IBM offerings

Key investments and offers IBM has made around its cloud architecture include the following:

• Cloud-enabled middleware: IBM has transformed its legacy middleware assets into cloud-delivered composable services over the last 18 months. The core assets flow from WebSphere, Java and Spring, all of which are integral to legacy business infrastructures in need of application modernization to leverage cloud economics.

• Over 450 services built from a common architecture: IBM Cloud consists of 450 services, 130 of which are customer-facing, designed from a common operating model to build, operate and secure applications as well as optimize the DevOps and continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines.

• Systematic build-out of a common cloud architecture with global availability: IBM outlined its global data center build-out around a natively developed cloud architecture built on an optical mesh network that will be consistently deployed in its 60-plus data centers by mid-2018. IBM designed the build-out in terms of zones, and regions nested under the zones, that will have identical operating characteristics and the same 130 customer-facing composable services available throughout the system.

• AppDev consistency and enterprise agility: API connectors simplify developer activities to speed time to market. IBM has standardized around Kubernetes container development as the architectural construct, with the use of OpenWhisk being promoted and commercialized for the emerging market for serverless applications, or Functions in IBM parlance. Further, low-code development options through the App Connect portfolio allow business users, or “knowledge workers” as IBM refers to them, to utilize technology and data to improve their day-to-day operations.

• A new view of private cloud: Bluemix Local has been shuttered based on customer resistance to open ports into their data centers. In lieu of this, IBM Cloud Private is a customer-managed and -operated solution that consists of a Kubernetes-based container platform leveraging the common services IBM utilizes for its own cloud development efforts on the public cloud, coupled with IBM middleware, data and analytics services, with Cloud Foundry prescriptions for application development and deployment. Toward that end, IBM outlined what it believes will be the three most common use cases:

  • Community: Working on creating cloud-native applications within Kubernetes containers from a common set of operational services and a catalog of open-source software and IBM software built for Kubernetes
  • Cloud native: Developing and deploying micro services built on 12-factor application principles. In addition to Kubernetes, operational services and the content catalog, IBM offers over 40 different community services around databases such as PostgreSQL and MongoDB.
  • Enterprise: Modernizing existing applications and opening and connecting enterprise data centers to interoperate with cloud services. IBM offers container-based services as well as support for the virtual machines in which many legacy applications have been built leveraging API Connect and WebSphere Application Server for the deployment and integration.

• Automated advisory services: To facilitate the knowledge transfer necessary for enterprise IT to pivot to multi-cloud or hybrid IT environments, IBM has built out three different services to accelerate enterprise technical skills:

  • IBM Cloud Architecture Center: provides best practice guidance and sample code
  • IBM Transformation Advisor: assesses and manages traditional applications, giving guidance on how to expose, refactor, shift and extend those applications
  • IBM Cloud Automation Manager: enables multi-cloud provisioning and provides prebuilt automation content, further reducing the human oversight of a multi-cloud enterprise architecture

Next: A common platform is great, but without a common data governance model, the economic advantage will not materialize for customers.