LAS VEGAS—IBM is going native—cloud native that is—and is telling its customers that cloud native is in their future too.
Such a statement might cause some old school IBM customers to break into a cold sweat, which is why IBM isn't pushing "cloud native" on them just yet—certainly not as hard as they are pushing Watson and cognitive computing. Cloud native is work in progress, for both parties.
Here at the IBM InterConnect conference, at a keynote session on the future of the cloud, Bryson Koehler, CTO of IBM Watson and IBM Cloud, and John Considine, IBM general manager for cloud infrastructure, outlined what the company has in store as it upgrades its existing data center infrastructure to handle the demands of cognitive computing and enterprise workloads.
To be clear, when Koehler told attendees, "cloud native is your future," he didn't necessarily mean it in the terms of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)—of which IBM is a member and whose governing board chairman is Todd Moore, IBM vice president of Open Technology.
To be cloud native the CNCF charter says that applications have to be containerized, dynamically managed and microservices oriented.
But also, Koehler contends, "cloud native fundamentally is a philosophical approach, which is I'm going to run my applications and manage my business in the cloud, to leverage horizontal scalability that is provided to me by infrastructure as a service," he said in a separate interview with eWEEK.
"There's cloud native software architecture and engineering, where you are really building that application properly to run in the cloud. That's obviously a good thing. But not everybody is going to rebuild all of their applications tomorrow to actually be cloud apps," Koehler said.
Looks Like Cloud Native
It seems IBM is hedging its bets here, because what IBM is doing behind the scenes with infrastructure and platform services sounds very much like cloud native. For one, IBM this week announced the Bluemix Container Service with native Kubernetes orchestration support, which brings the IBM Cloud on par with Google, Amazon Web Service and other cloud service providers for container management.
Bluemix is the platform as a service (PaaS) that IBM has integrated into its cloud data centers. In addition, Koehler says IBM is working on using containers to package up IBM AIX-based applications to migrate them to cloud data centers.
In terms of microservices, IBM has released in beta the Microservice Builder, a set of tools that can help developers create microservices in Bluemix. Also available is a Migration Toolkit that can take inventory of existing monolithic application code to see if it can be deconstructed or converted, in whole or in part, into microservices.
The dynamically managed part of IBM's cloud native strategy is another matter. IBM's erstwhile SoftLayer data centers, acquired in 2013, have been used mostly for managed hosting in IBM's Global Technology Services group, with little support for must-have cloud features like elasticity and fast provisioning of servers.