With BlueMix, IBM Meets Developers Where They Live

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2014-04-29

With BlueMix, IBM Meets Developers Where They Live

LAS VEGAS–IBM is betting big on its BlueMix platform as a service, so big that the company is meeting with developers where they live to provide access, services and mentoring to startups who wish to take advantage of the platform.

Earlier this year, IBM pledged to invest $1 billion to create a market around BlueMix, and the company is putting its money where its mouth is. At the IBM Impact 2014 conference here, IBM announced the launch of the first BlueMix Garage – a physical location where developers, product managers and designers can collaborate with IBM experts to rapidly innovate and deliver new cloud apps deployed onto BlueMix, IBM’s open platform as a service (PaaS).

Located in San Francisco, the first IBM BlueMix Garage has begun initial projects and will become fully operational this June, transforming app development with modern cloud technologies and disciplined agile processes. Centered in dense startup communities, BlueMix Garages will help redefine how developers use the cloud to turn new ideas into initial products, evolve them based on market feedback, and deliver scale and integration with client systems as needed through the IBM BlueMix platform.

Designed as a collaborative space for developers from companies of all sizes, the first BlueMix Garage will locate an IBM community and development lab in the heart of a thriving, entrepreneurial community: Galvanize. Located in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood – home to more startups per square foot than anywhere in the world, IBM claims – Galvanize attracts a strong network of entrepreneurs, developers, students, mentors, angel investors and venture capitalists in a physical space to learn, collaborate and create the next generation of high-tech and digital businesses. By the end of 2014, Galvanize will be home to approximately 200 San Francisco startups, which will sit next to the BlueMix Garage and spur co-innovation through events, technical talks and mentorship by IBM Fellows and senior business leaders.

“Galvanize is a co-learning campus, providing digital startups with the industry-critical tools, mentoring and connections they need to learn, grow and launch,” said Jim Deters, co-founder and CEO of Galvanize, in a statement. “The inclusion of IBM’s first BlueMix Garage within the Galvanize community will equip our strong network of developers with the ability to competitively innovate apps with speed, using the power of cloud and open standards.”

The work with Galvanize and the decision to put the first BlueMix Garage in San Francisco is part of an ongoing effort IBM has had to reach out to the developer community in the San Francisco Bay and Silicon Valley area. IBM Research opened its first West Coast lab in San Jose in 1956. In 1986, the company opened the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose. Also in San Jose is the IBM Silicon Valley Lab, where IBM is doing a lot of cloud and open source work.

With BlueMix, IBM Meets Developers Where They Live

Angel Diaz, IBM's vice president of Open Technology and Cloud Performance Solutions, told eWEEK he was tasked with helping to beef up IBM’s cloud presence as well as to help the company gain a stronger foothold into the open-source, startup culture of the valley. Diaz, who splits time in San Jose and IBM’s Somers, N.Y., offices, said there is nothing better than being in front of the people launching new companies and employing much of the open-source technology IBM contributes to. He said he or members of his team are present at the various user group meetings, meetups and other gatherings of developers for key open-source technologies in the valley.

Under Diaz’s watch, IBM got behind OpenStack and Cloud Foundry, and championed the creation of BlueMix. His group also gave a major thumbs-up on IBM’s plan to acquire SoftLayer last year for a reported $2 billion.

"Cloud Foundry has gained significant traction in the past couple of years, so IBM's choice of it as a platform makes a great deal of sense," said Donnie Berkholz, an analyst with RedMonk. "As that happened, we've seen Cloud Foundry gain broader governance than its previous leadership solely by Pivotal and earlier by VMware, again in line with what I'd expect from IBM. Choosing an open-source PaaS is in line with IBM's selection of OpenStack and, more than a decade ago, Linux, so I see this move as a good one that's clearly been thought through and that is consistent with IBM's philosophy and behavior."

Diaz took over Willy Chiu’s team, Steve Mills, IBM senior vice president and group executive for Software and Systems, told eWEEK. Chiu was the vice president of IBM Cloud Labs. “Willy retired and that team was put in place quite a while ago. That team focuses on cloud. They do some work to help the Watson team on some of the performance tuning. They have some very deep performance expertise. That team gets involved with high-performance transaction processing benchmark scenarios and things of that nature. It’s a team with a very diverse set of skills.”

So the team was already in San Jose, making it a perfect resource to reach out to startups. For instance, Mountain View, Calif.-based WhatsApp is hosted on IBM’s SoftLayer cloud platform.

“I think it was a move of genius by IBM to use the resources they had in Silicon Valley to increase the presence of the company in the area,” said James Governor, co-founder and analyst at RedMonk. “Microsoft also has a presence in the valley, but IBM appears to be more active in its approach to reaching those developers where they live.”

Indeed, Microsoft has a Silicon Valley technology center as well as a Microsoft Research facility in Mountain View. Microsoft also has held its Build developer conference in San Francisco for the last two years to sell out crowds and the company is actively courting Bay Area developers to try the Microsoft Azure Cloud.

“We made a strategic decision to put our first BlueMix Garage in San Francisco and not just in San Francisco, but in that South of Market area where all those entrepreneurs are,” Steve Robinson, general manager of IBM’s Cloud Services Platform, told eWEEK. “We thought about having a developer conference there, but we decided it would be better to have actual feet on the street with a real presence in the community.”

With BlueMix, IBM Meets Developers Where They Live

Working side-by-side with IBM experts, entrepreneurs from various companies will gain a core set of skills in agile practices focused on cloud integration, systems of record, scalability and security; they will be able to quickly build, deploy and iterate new Cloud apps and services on BlueMix, IBM said. On an ongoing basis, IBM will identify products created in the garage, as well as startup offerings, which would benefit IBM’s clients, making them available as software-as-a-service (SaaS) capabilities in IBM’s new Cloud marketplace.

As part of the new partnership with IBM, Galvanize and IBM will be adding BlueMix content into existing gSchool courses, Galvanize’s 24-week immersive developer training program. Galvanize is announcing a new gSchool course on Cloud Foundry in San Francisco commencing in fall 2014 powered by IBM and Pivotal. This new curriculum will produce developers highly skilled in building apps on BlueMix, Pivotal Web Services and other Cloud Foundry providers.

“What you’re seeing us do is empower developers who care about polyglot programming,” Diaz said. “The Garage is a physical location where we’re partnering with the Cloud Foundry community. We’re trying to get developers energized and educated. The more energy we can get around this, the faster things can get to market. If you’re not building on top of open-source technology you’re irrelevant.”

Diaz said the San Francisco garage is the first, but there will be others. In addition, he said IBM’s enterprise clients want to be able to take advantage of similar resources, so IBM is looking at how to address that. “They want to get help on things like how to take a transactional app and have it work with a born-on-the-web app,” he said. Asked if New York City was next for a BlueMix Garage, Diaz would not respond other than to say there will be others coming.

"IBM's always been about selling business value, not technologies, so its move up the stack from IaaS to PaaS is a natural extension of that focus," Berkholz said. "This shift is consistent with other moves IBM has recently made, such as progressively selling off more and more of its commodity hardware businesses — first ThinkPad and more recently xSeries. IBM sees much greater success when it sells business results, not commodities, and PaaS is a better fit than IaaS for that reason."

With the launch of BlueMix Garages, IBM’s developer platform will continue to strengthen the extensive ecosystem underpinning it. Reaching more than four million developers worldwide with its developerWorks community, IBM fuels a dev2dev support community, thousands of “how to” guides, developer discussion forums and deep technical documentation.

"I think we'll continue to see IBM's software divisions reorient around the 'IBM as a Service' concept that it pushed at Pulse," Berkholz said. "In the context of BlueMix, that will mean an ongoing addition of buildpacks based on its existing software portfolio as it's able to repackage them as services."

"BlueMix is about getting cloud developers, and it is critical to IBM’s strategy to change the company into  a major cloud player," industry analyst Rob Enderle told eWEEK. "Cloud services are to a large extent now about getting developers on your platform, and IBM is making a major bet that BlueMix’s open-source core and technical advantages will give them the edge they need against competitors like Amazon. It’s the right move, but we’ll need to see take-up and hear from some developers to be sure."

Moreover, through the Global Entrepreneur Program, IBM also works closely with more than 1,000 startups, helping them build their companies with venture capital investment, incubators, mentoring camps and startup villages throughout emerging markets such as India and Africa. Additionally, IBM provides mentoring and access to skill building in over 200 countries, sponsoring more than 3,000 technical events each year from enablement to testing and validation. This mentoring extends to academia, where IBM reaches more than 3,500 universities, helping to educate students about advances in big data, analytics, cloud and more.

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