Industry research firm Ovum gave IBM high marks for its software development capabilities for building hybrid cloud applications. Other industry watchers agree with this assessment although they say that some old perceptions about the company’s role in software persist.
Ovum named IBM as a market leader in three areas that are key to creating hybrid cloud environments: DevOps release management, application lifecycle management (ALM) and Agile project management.
Ovum’s assessment comes largely as a result of the success of the IBM Bluemix platform-as-a-service (PaaS) platform, which enables developers to build applications for public, private and hybrid clouds, as well as for on-premises.
The Bluemix platform earned IBM high scores, as did the company’s portfolio of solutions in the Bluemix catalog, which offers tools and services such as IBM’s UrbanCode and Collaborative Lifecycle Management, as well as tools for building Internet of things apps, cognitive apps and much more. The catalog has more than 140 APIs and services, including IBM Watson and cognitive APIs, as well as tools for DevOps, Blockchain, security, data analytics and more.
“Very few vendors we evaluated offer the broad range of capabilities, support and global reach that IBM provides,” Michael Azoff, principal analyst at Ovum, said in a statement. “By bringing to bear advanced tools and seamless integration with existing data and systems, IBM is definitely winning over the hearts and minds of developers. IBM’s decade-long leadership in application lifecycle management has made it uniquely qualified to solve multi-speed IT and product challenges in the enterprise.”
Regarding ALM, Ovum noted that via Bluemix IBM provides a top-notch application development environment in the cloud. The research firm praised IBM for its support of the Scaled Agile Framework for enterprise agile development at large scale.
Meanwhile, in DevOps release management, Ovum noted that IBM made a wise choice in acquiring UrbanCode in 2013, and the resulting IBM DevOps products achieved among the highest scores in the report. Ovum also noted that UrbanCode stood out for its range of external integrations that enable the tool to be made a part of any platform from mobile to mainframe, and from physical hardware to cloud services. In addition, Ovum called out IBM’s Bluemix Garage Method as good way to get up to speed with DevOps.
In Agile project management, IBM provides a complete portfolio that includes tools that are easy to use, enhance collaboration and integrate well with open -source solutions, the Ovum report said.
IBM told eWEEK that 15,000 to 20,000 developers adopt Bluemix each week and the platform boasts more than a million overall users. Moreover, about 120,000 Bluemix-based applications are built each month, IBM said.
“Ovum’s ranking of IBM as a leader for cloud developers further validates this momentum and highlights the agile, hybrid cloud environment that innovators are looking for,” Marie Wieck, general manager of Cloud Integration for IBM, said in a statement.
IBM has received other accolades in the hybrid cloud space. In January, two independent reports came out of Forrester Research and Synergy Research naming IBM a leader in hybrid cloud management solutions.
These reports helped further underscore the momentum IBM has seen as customers turn to IBM for help connecting cloud services and applications to core systems that may always remain on-premises due to a variety of factors, such as regulatory compliance, control, cost and others.
However, IBM’s strengths in ALM may be offset by perceptions that the company only caters to very large customers and may not do enough to reach out to developers. That may be because IBM does not sell classic development tools like Microsoft’s Visual Studio and its components. Yet, the company’s developerWorks program provides information as well as how-to’s, tools and code to more than 4 million developers.
“IBM does have a broad set of technologies, which is a good thing and a bad thing,” said Thomas Murphy, an analyst with Gartner. “They can cover ‘every need’ but they also create confusion with their customers, i.e., ‘what is the fate of Tool X?’ And IBM has a history of building a big story then sometimes leaving people hanging.”
IBM’s development tools portfolio is large and confusing; the things that hold it together are very high-level messages, while the real strength for IBM isn’t products so much as it is vision and global services, Murphy said.
“This isn’t to say they have bad products, but there are challenges any time you look at them as a product company,” he said.
IBM Takes the Lead in App Dev for Hybrid Cloud: Ovum
Rob Enderle, founder of the Enderle Group, said IBM has historically had a good relationship with developers. but being historically more of a hardware company, IBM tended to be more insular than software companies—which wasn’t a problem when IBM was dominant, but now that they aren’t, it lowered the utility of their offering.
“Now that they are more of a software company and embraced open source before firms like Microsoft did, they are a far more competitive cross-platform though the old stigma still sticks with them,” Enderle said. “Their exposure largely is one of perception.”
When IBM made the pivot to software, the company also eliminated much of its marketing capability, which lowered its ability to convince customers they had changed, Enderle said. So they are hurt by perceptions, which largely aren’t true anymore, that they are insular and hard to do business with, he added.
“Perception is 100 percent of reality for all of us,” he added.
Indeed, IBM is in the midst of a critical transformation, said Al Hilwa, an IDC analyst.
Yet, as a pioneer in building the Eclipse IDE and open-source foundation around it, IBM helped influence the modern developer landscape.
“Consider the reams of headlines Microsoft received for its recent forays into open source, an area where IBM has invested billions since the mid-1990s,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
IBM also has a full lifecycle portfolio in software development tools, but as companies shift to open-source technologies and on-demand pricing, its traditional business has taken a hit, Hilwa said
IBM’s traditional software licensing business has been seeing long-term declines as reported in its quarterly financials; however, the company is working hard to acquire, integrate and transition to cloud new and existing IP that it is offering to modern developers on its Bluemix cloud, he noted.
“The company has realized that it needs to do better outreach to modern developers and has been active recently in setting up startup garages all over the world,” Hilwa said. “IBM has put together a much stronger evangelism program recently to put its technology and software development know-how in front of developers.”
Pund-IT’s King notes that many of IBM’s DevOps efforts occur “off camera” in areas like their significant open-source standards investments, DevOps tool development and nurturing developer communities. The company has been active in these areas for years.
“So far as challenges go, the transparency of these efforts among the general public hinders IBM from getting the acknowledgement it deserves for these efforts,” King said. “But that lack of public acknowledgement likely isn’t a major issue for IBM so long as its enterprise customers recognize and continue buying the company’s offerings.”