IBM Advances SoftLayer for Hybrid Cloud Growth

IBM is opening two new SoftLayer cloud data centers and planning to open several more this year as it continues to build out its hybrid cloud infrastructure.

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LAS VEGAS—IBM announced the continuation of its build-out of its cloud data center infrastructure, with new SoftLayer cloud centers in Sydney, Australia, and Montreal.

Both facilities are set to open within the next 30 days. Once launched, IBM will have opened five SoftLayer cloud centers in less than four months, including recently established facilities in Frankfurt, Germany; Querétaro, Mexico; and Tokyo. IBM announced the news at its IBM InterConnect 2015 conference here.

Connected to the initial $1.2 billion investment in cloud services that IBM announced in 2014, the new computing capacity broadens the company's cloud footprint in both Australia and Canada, bringing the SoftLayer portfolio to local doorsteps. The new cloud centers are each the second of their kind to be opened in their respective countries, giving customers the option for in-country data redundancy.

Last year, IBM announced it would be opening as many as 40 cloud centers as part of that $1.2 billion investment, and the company now has 40 such centers. In January, IBM said it had earned $7 billion in cloud revenue.

"We grew 60 percent in cloud in 2014, and we formed a new cloud organization this year to continue on that growth path," said Robert LeBlanc, senior vice president of cloud at IBM. "It's our intent to be in every major country around the world."

Additionally, as part of the investment, IBM has committed to opening cloud centers in Milan, Italy, and Chennai, India, before the year is out, with more sites to be announced later this year. The additional cloud centers give IBM Cloud customers even more locations and options for creating their ideal public, private or hybrid cloud environments.

"We are just trying to keep up with the demand from our enterprise customers," said Jim Comfort, general manager of IBM Cloud Services, in a statement. "With each new location, we're not only adding more computing capacity, we're also helping customers solve data residency issues, address security and audit controls, run and scale big data applications on bare metal servers, and more. We're enabling enterprises to move to the cloud at the speed and in a way that makes the most sense for them."

SoftLayer has more than doubled its server count and network size since IBM acquired the company in 2013. IBM's cloud center expansion strengthens and expands SoftLayer's network, decreases latency, provides geographically diverse locations for data backups, and helps customers as they strive to comply with regulations regarding data sovereignty in many countries.

Phil Jackson, lead technology evangelist at SoftLayer, told eWEEK that business is booming at the company and that SoftLayer is much further along in its strategy to achieve cloud dominance than it would have been had IBM not acquired the company two years ago for around $2 billion.

"We've been able to do so much more with IBM behind us," Jackson said. "I still do the same job I used to do, but their channel is so much bigger than ours used to be. We used to have to 'prove' we were real; now we don't."

Jackson said one advantage SoftLayer has above some competitors is it offers a bare metal alternative where applications run on bare metal servers to give users both raw performance and consistency. "It's about performance, yet not so much purely for speed but also for consistency," he said.

Last month, IBM announced that Lance Crosby, the founder and CEO of SoftLayer, resigned from the company. However, Jackson said it has been business as usual since Crosby's departure.

IBM acquired SoftLayer in July of 2013 for $2.1 billion and made it the foundation of the Big Blue cloud strategy. Crosby was deeply involved in the integration of SoftLayer into IBM and was key to transitioning IBM's overall cloud strategy with SoftLayer.

The SoftLayer management team remains intact and will continue to support IBM's cloud initiatives being spearheaded under LeBlanc, who is IBM's senior vice president of Cloud. Crosby was set to transition to a new role as head of innovation for IBM Cloud when he decided to leave. SoftLayer's ongoing leaders include COO Francisco Romero, CTO Marc Jones, Chief of Strategy George Karidis, Head of Sales Stephen Canale and others. IBM's cloud business reached a milestone last year, hitting $7 billion in revenues. SoftLayer continues to be a foundational piece of IBM's platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings.

IBM officials said the SoftLayer integration with IBM's Cloud business has gone exceedingly well. SoftLayer is the basis of IBM's Cloud portfolio as the company's core infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform—the platform under IBM's Bluemix PaaS for developers and also the IaaS under IBM's expansive SaaS portfolio.