LAS VEGAS — With its new BlueMix Platform as a Service (PaaS), IBM has targeted Microsoft’s Azure PaaS and is banking on its adherence to openness as an advantage over the software giant now focused on a mobile-first, cloud-first world.
In a series of recent interviews with IBM, the company made official its plans to go head-to-head with Microsoft in the PaaS market, as well as to compete with the likes of Heroku, Engine Yard and a host of others.
Last year IBM made clear its intent to compete with Amazon Web Services (AWS) in the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud market, even renting ad space on local buses to tout IBM’s cloud expertise during the AWS re:Invent 2013 conference here last November. Now IBM is looking at Azure as the PaaS to beat.
In an interview with Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive for Software & Systems at IBM, at IBM’s Impact 2014 and with IBM officials at the IBM Edge 2014 conference here, the theme of BlueMix as the PaaS platform of the future resounded.
“When we came up with BlueMix I wasn’t staring at AWS, I was staring at Azure,” Mills told eWEEK. “Give Microsoft credit, they are very good at personal computing. They think a lot about the fidelity of the environment… They’re very user sensitive in the way they come at these problems. They’re not all encompassing in the way they think of what people will do and will sacrifice some of the variety and openness and so on in favor of the fidelity of the environment. I don’t think you have to sacrifice the fidelity of the environment for the extensiveness of the environment. We think both can be managed. So I’m paying much more attention to Azure.”
IBM’s BlueMix technology provides composable app creation and deployment capabilities in an open, common environment to reduce complexity. IBM is trying to accelerate the pace at which cloud computing will transform global industries. BlueMix features cloud integration services to enable a secure connection between an organization’s public applications and private data; swift, secure and fast connections, via the cloud, between Internet of things and machine-to-machine device to store, query and visualize data; data and analytics as a service to allow the rapid design and scale of applications that turn big data into competitive intelligence; and DevOps services that support the complete developer lifecycle.
Moreover, IBM is leveraging BlueMix’s foundation on SoftLayer for this expansion, combining the strength of IBM’s middleware software with third-party and open technologies to create an integrated development experience in the cloud. Using an open cloud environment, BlueMix helps both born-on-the-Web and enterprise developers build applications with their choice of tools. With the ability to easily combine a variety of services and APIs from across the industry to compose, test and scale custom applications, developers will be able to cut deployment time from months to minutes.
IBM Targets Microsoft’s Azure With BlueMix PaaS
“The adoption rate of BlueMix has been nothing short of phenomenal since being announced only a few short weeks ago,” said Steve Robinson, general manager of IBM Cloud Platform Services, in a statement.
Earlier this year, IBM pledged to commit $1.2 billion to significantly expand its global cloud footprint, beefing up its SoftLayer infrastructure and other components. Big Blue said the investment includes a network of cloud centers designed to bring clients greater flexibility, transparency and control over how they manage their data, run their business and deploy their IT operations locally in the cloud.
In 2014, IBM plans to deliver cloud services from 40 data centers worldwide in 13 countries and five continents globally, including North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Among the newest IBM cloud centers to launch are Washington, D.C., Hong Kong, London, Toronto, Japan, India, China, Canada, Mexico and Dallas.
“Our focus is to bring others to the fact of who is the leader in the cloud,” said Ric Telford, vice president of IBM Cloud Services, in a comment from last November.
Subsequently, in a commentary on PaaS, Telford said, “Many companies have converged on this space, coming up from the IaaS layer (Amazon’s Relational Database Service or Elastic Beanstalk), down from the SaaS layer (Salesforce’s Force.com), or even as a new corporate initiative (Google AppEngine or Microsoft Azure). In addition, there are numerous “pure play” PaaS offerings (like EngineYard) and a whole slew of startups.”
However, Telford warns that one aspect to watch in the PaaS space is the role of open standards and open source. Mills also questions whether Microsoft is up to managing the “chaos” associated with adopting open-source technology into its mix.
“They’ve kind of isolated their open-related activities off to the side,” Mills said of Microsoft. “To play effectively in open source you have to be willing to play in a lot of chaos,” he added.
To its credit, Microsoft has made many incremental moves to adopt more open-source technology into its fold, including launching the Microsoft Open Technologies subsidiary and recently introducing the .NET Foundation at its Build 2014 conference. The goal of the .NET Foundation is to manage the open-sourcing of key components of Microsoft’s .NET platform.
In a conversation at Microsoft’s launch of Visual Studio 2013 and Visual studio Online in New York last November, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group, told eWEEK in the cloud space marketing is one thing, but “at the end of the day code talks. And at the end of the day code usually wins. At the end of the day, people are going to use the product that works best.”
Indeed, in his commentary Telford agreed. “Developers will decide. Think early days of Microsoft or today’s Android. The PaaS vendors that are most successful in courting and keeping software developers will rise to the top. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing some “PaaS-justifying applications” — compelling SaaS offerings that run only on a particular vendor’s PaaS. (For the gamers out there, an analogy is Titanfall for Xbox One.)”
Meanwhile, Mills weighs in on the competition for developer hearts and minds.
“You may be familiar with what we’ve done around developerWorks, which is one of the most popular developer sites on the Web,” he said. “Our level of popularity over the years has rivaled MSDN [Microsoft Developer Network] as far as number of developers, number of visits and amount of activity. If you look at MSDN and developerWorks, those two things together far exceed any of the newer things that are materializing here in the industry.”
The full transcript of eWEEK’s interview with IBM’s Mills is available on the eWEEK Website.