IBM Relay Sets Big Blue Apart in Hybrid Cloud Race

IBM's Relay technology, which syncs updates across distinct cloud environments, is one of the company's secret weapons in the hybrid cloud space.

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NEW YORK – IBM today hosted its Relay 2015 event here, a celebration of the company’s diverse IBM Cloud offerings and an opportunity to demonstrate how IBM is helping customers take advantage of the cloud and cognitive computing to build a new generation of apps and services.

The event, attended by IBM customers, partners and other members of Big Blue’s cloud ecosystem, highlighted key technologies organizations are adopting in their quest to reach hybrid cloud nirvana. In addition to IBM’s SoftLayer Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), the vendor’s Bluemix Platform as a Service (PaaS) and IBM’s many SaaS offerings, one of the key technologies IBM has delivered for its customers moving to hybrid cloud is its Relay technology.

The company’s Relay technology, created by IBM cloud development teams, ensures all cloud environments remain current. Relay can instantly sync updates across environments, allowing enterprises to experience the same cloud content and visibility, regardless of location. The Relay 2015 event took its name from IBM’s Relay technology.

“Relay is one of the very unique technologies IBM is bringing to the cloud discussion,” said Steve Robinson, general manager of Cloud Platform Services for IBM Cloud.

Robinson told eWEEK one of the challenges his group faced early on when working with cloud customers was that when they tried to stand up their own OpenStack or Cloud Foundry implementations, they often ran into problems because of the speed and complexity of the processes.

“These projects update so readily and when you start adding new services on top of it you have to start adding more and more people to keep it up and running,” Robinson said. “There’s a critical mass and once you reach about 10 people trying to run one of these environments on your own it gets pretty hard. So we took the concept of using our public cloud image as kind of a master image. That’s the one that we’ll keep up to date, where we’ve got the largest DevOps team of about 200 people and we apply all the security patches.”

That master public cloud image has been battle-tested with thousands upon thousands of users, Robinson said, adding “when we do the dedicated and local environments, we trickle the changes down to those other environments.”

“Relay is the process of doing all the updates in the master and then relaying everything back down to the other environments. We set up a beacon between the two so they are kind of passively connecting. We use our Urban Code Deploy to package up the changes and send them down to the environment to digest that change, do the update and then roll out,” he explained. “We’ve been doing a lot of work on the Bluemix Local environment. A lot of customers said they were not going to let anybody behind their firewall, so a lot of thought has been put into how to deliver a patch down.”

Robinson noted that customers view Relay as not just a managed service, but as a managed update capability as well. IBM started out with Cloud Foundry with the Bluemix Local piece and then the company acquired Blue Box, and Blue Box will be delivering the same Relay technology for OpenStack.

“We’re going to have both OpenStack and Cloud Foundry public, dedicated and local and they will have this same Relay technology providing these updates as well,” Robinson said.

IBM acquired Blue Box in June as a privately-held, Seattle-based company that provides businesses with a simple, private cloud as a service platform, based on OpenStack. Through Blue Box, IBM is helping businesses rapidly integrate their cloud-based applications and on-premises systems into OpenStack-based managed cloud. Blue Box also strengthens IBM Cloud’s existing OpenStack portfolio, with the introduction of a remotely managed OpenStack offering to provide clients with a local cloud and increased visibility, control and security.