Shawn Murray was perfectly happy as the senior director of Azure digital sales at Microsoft, as he had been with the company for 18 years—continually moving up the ladder.
Then Murray got a glimpse of what IBM was doing with its Bluemix platform and its outreach to developers, and he decided to make a change. Murray joined IBM as worldwide director of Bluemix and Blockchain Garages.
Speaking with eWEEK this week about the launch of IBM’s latest Bluemix Garage in New York City, Murray said it was IBM’s focus on design in addition to its cloud and developer focus that won him over. Steve Robinson, general manager of IBM Cloud Platform Services, who had a key role in establishing the IBM Bluemix Garages, helped recruit Murray away from Microsoft—where he’d spent the last seven years leading Azure sales both in the enterprise and the ISV spaces.
“I was pretty happy with my role at Microsoft, but once he told me about the garages and I started digging into what they do here, I knew this was the place for me,” Murray said in an interview. “Because what they’ve done at IBM is truly magical.”
Murray said IBM has combined the technical capabilities and the roles of the developers and the architects with designers who have Ph.D.’s in psychology and design thinking, and it has built this entire method around how to build apps in an innovative way.
“Microsoft just didn’t have that,” he said. “They could help you build an app. But IBM’s difference is that whole process and the design thinking.”
The design element is what made a difference for Murray. For example, one of the Bluemix Garage engagements Murray sat in on was a small startup out of San Francisco that had a complete idea and knew exactly what it wanted to build. IBM had the company come to the garage for a design thinking workshop to help it visualize what it was trying to solve and what experience it wanted its end users to have. And the design workshop, the startup abandoned the idea it initially had because it realized that what it was trying to build wasn’t really what it was trying to solve.
“That’s the differentiator for us,” Murray said. “We have the combination of designers who can think through challenges. Not just visual designers, but experience designers, and we bundle that with architects and the developer assets that we have. So for me personally, it was just a perfect fit.”
IBM is indeed serious about design. In April, Big Blue established a new Distinguished Designer program and placed it on the level of the company’s 2-decade-old Distinguished Engineer program. IBM recognizes design as a technical craft that is as critical as engineering to the long-term success of the company and a key driver of value for its customers, said Fahad Osmani, talent director for IBM Design.
IBM Design is three years into its mission of driving a culture of design within the company. The company has built what it claims is the world’s largest design team, with 1,250 designers and 29 design studios around the world. Designers work on multidisciplinary teams on IBM products; digital engagement platforms for customers via the company’s digital agency, IBM Interactive Experience (IBM iX); and branding and marketing initiatives.
IBM Launches NYC Bluemix Garage With Former Azure Exec
Meanwhile, earlier this week, Murray announced the opening of an IBM Bluemix Garage in New York to focus on the city’s developers, entrepreneurs and fintech companies with cloud and blockchain. This is IBM’s seventh Bluemix Garage. IBM launched its first Bluemix Garage in San Francisco to help startups get their ideas off the ground. At the garages, IBM enables developers to tap into IBM Cloud APIs around cognitive, Internet of things (IoT), unstructured data, social media and now blockchain to create applications.
“Ramping up more companies on Bluemix will be a significant addition to New York City’s tech economy, as it enables financial tech companies like us to innovate with APIs such as Watson,” said Prashant Bhuyan, co-founder and CEO of Alpha Modus, in a statement.
The New York City location joins IBM’s network of Bluemix Garages around the world, which includes locations in San Francisco, London, Toronto, Nice, Tokyo and Singapore. More Bluemix Garages are planned for later this year, Murray said.
“For the New York garage specifically, we’ll cover Bluemix, Watson and IoT and all the other services that are part of the Bluemix platform,” Murray said. “The New York garage will actually have a focus on financial services. And we’re building a practice around blockchain. So we’ve had a couple of clients come in to get a taste of how we would use blockchain on Bluemix, but with a financial services approach.”
A new study from IBM describes how blockchain networks can help to eliminate frictions in the economy that are inhibiting business growth. IBM said there are a number of obstacles that add costs and complexity that hamper the growth of global business and trade. Blockchain, which creates a permanent and transparent record of transactions, helps to remove these obstacles, IBM said.
The new Bluemix Garage is located in the Galvanize facility at 315 Hudson St. in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, where a number of the city’s tech startups have set up shop.
“Having IBM’s Bluemix Garage in New York City, within the Galvanize community, allows our strong network of developers and startups to leverage the power of the cloud and the expertise of IBM to competitively innovate products and apps in the growing fintech and blockchain spaces,” said Jim Deters, co-founder and CEO of Galvanize, in a statement.
Microsoft watcher Rob Enderle, founder of the Enderle Group, said he believes IBM’s blockchain ramp is best next to a major financial market.
“Conceptually, both the concept of the Bluemix Garage and the initial execution appear to be well-founded,” Enderle said. “An interesting addition is the hiring of the Microsoft guy to run sales. This would indicate they are willing to pay to staff this effort properly, and that is also a strong indicator that they will be successful.”
Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, agreed, noting that the New York City Bluemix Garage is particularly interesting because it shows how the garage model, which focuses largely on developers and related issues, can be tweaked to address the commercial concerns of local customers.
“With New York City being the financial navel of the Western Hemisphere, the focus on blockchain, fintech and financial services makes great sense,” King said. “The hiring of the former Azure exec could signal that IBM is planning to up the commercial reach of Bluemix Garage, and more clearly pitch its value to enterprise clients and potential customers.”