IBM Puts Its Cloud Data Services on Display

At an event in Boston, the company shows off the broad range of its cloud offerings, in particular its dashDB hosted data warehousing service.

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BOSTON—IBM for the past couple of years has been aggressively building out its cloud data capabilities, spending billions to bring in companies like Cloudant, SoftLayer and—last month—Compose to bring it up to par with other top-tier cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services.

IBM has for a while had the tools to help organizations build out their private clouds, according to Chris Glew, senior product manager for IBM's Cloud Data Services unit. What Big Blue needed to do was grow its public cloud technologies to give customers the ability to run their application seamlessly in either private or public environments.

It's that hybrid model that's exactly IBM's sweet spot," Glew said Aug. 25 during what company officials called the IBM Cloud Data Boot Camp, a half-day event here that was designed to give business intelligence (BI) and data analytics experts a look at what they can do with the vendor's broad range of cloud data services in general and the cloud-based dashDB hosted data warehousing solution in particular.

It also was the first of at least three such events around the country that IBM has planned to publicize what it has to offer in the realm of cloud-based data services. The company wants to drive developer productivity and innovation around open-source and cloud data services, not only by expanding its portfolio but also by contributing to a range of open-source cloud projects that touch on everything from analytics and mobile to data.

It's a growing and competitive space. Analysts with research firm Markets and Markets expect the cloud database and database-as-a-service (DBaaS) space to grow from $1.07 billion last year to $14.05 billion by 2019, increasing at an annual rate of more than 67 percent a year. Helping fuel the growth is ability to give developers the tools they need to rapidly spin out Web and mobile applications without having to deal with back-end databases and system administration. Organizations no longer have to plan out what they're going to do in three- to five-year increments, Glew said.

"The cloud takes away a lot of that barrier of entry," he said. "The ability to move faster is huge. … They know what they need to do today. Planning down the road is very hard.

It's also a market populated by the likes of Amazon and Microsoft. IBM officials said Amazon is probably better known for its capabilities at this point, but the gap is narrowing.

"Yes, Amazon is a player, but IBM is catching up," said John Park, product manager for dashDB, admitting that IBM "was behind the curve in respect to the public cloud."

Big Blue is working hard to build out its capabilities. IBM's Cloud Data Services offerings are composable, integrated services for developers that run on the company's Bluemix platform-as-a-service (PaaS). During the Boston event, Glew and Park outlined the broad mix of self-service and full-service offerings the vendor offers, from dashDB and DataWorks data refinery service to MongoDB by Compose and Elasticsearch by Compose. Differentiators for IBM over Amazon and others are the deep integration of the services and the strong hybrid model, Glew said.