IBM Watson HQ in New York City IBM
IBM Watson headquarters in New York City

IBM adds 12 Cloud Data Centers, Endorses OpenStack Throughout

IBM's hybrid cloud strategy is shaping up around openness, but will its legacy business suffer?

IBM has added 12 cloud data centers to the list of locations its SoftLayer services are now delivered out of. Nine of them are inside Equinix data centers. IBM SoftLayer is now part of the Equinix Cloud Exchange, which means Equinix tenants can provision SoftLayer cloud services via APIs, instead of setting up physical cross-connects. The new cloud data center locations are part of the $1.2 billion infrastructure push the company kicked off at the start of the year.

The three new locations that are not Equinix sites are dedicated IBM Cloud centers in Frankfurt, Mexico City, and Tokyo. The Equinix data centers are in Australia, France, Japan, Singapore, the Netherlands, and the U.S.

The Equinix partnership lets customers put key apps in Equinix colocation facilities while directly connecting to other apps in any cloud setting that's most suitable for them.

Puzzle pieces of IBM’s cloud strategy are coming together. The company is going after enterprise hybrid cloud by enabling it in any way it can, be it geographically or technologically.

“The main theme has been around working with our enterprise clients consistently through various entry points,” said Moe Abdula, a vice president at IBM, said.”The main one has been around providing the necessary reach and expansion clients need to enable cloud. The other is we are expanding our reach; the whole way by which we’re going about expanding the cloud portfolio, specifically from a hybrid angle.”

Openness is Driving Cloud

IBM also announced it has endorsed OpenStack, the open source cloud architecture, across its entire portfolio.

Cloud in general, and especially hybrid cloud, needs open standards This is driving unparalleled cooperation between the large vendors, and projects like OpenStack are where that cooperation is in plain sight. Vendors recognize that the value is not in individual pieces, but in making it all work as a whole. This is something that cannot be commoditized.

Much of IBM’s OpenStack work was around the creation of a common language or API. “We shepherded the creation of the OpenStack Governing board,” Abdula said. “We’re taking this a step forward. We are now endorsing OpenStack across all of our environments.”

While the company has offered private on-prem OpenStack before, it will now be available on all consumption models.

“Now, we have private off-premise in a managed or public way. We’ve enabled the full API of OpenStack across any target environments.”

IBM’s will also continue to invest in its Bluemix Platform-as-a-Service based on the open source PaaS Cloud Foundry. “We’re finding that much more, PaaS is going to become a critical entry point for folks not just building social, mobile, but more advanced and richer sets of applications," Abdula said. "We recently launched Watson capabilities on the PaaS and will have a couple announcements that expand that further."

Balancing Cloud With Huge Legacy Business

"IBM has a huge client base in traditional enterprise IT services which gives it a built in target audience for its cloud infrastructure services," Synergy Research Chief Analyst John Dinsdale wrote in an email. "I think that IBM should be able to maintain some exciting growth rates for its private and hybrid cloud services; the bigger challenge that IBM faces is maximizing revenues from its legacy services while the market goes through this huge shift to the cloud."

Abdula believes that IBM’s place is not in either cloud or legacy, but enabling hybrid openly and completely. “One of the key things we observe, from a cloud perspective, if you endorse and think of hybrid—and look at it as a shift to a hybrid model—what that means for on-premise systems, is that there is a part that also has to be played there. It’s a part that becomes part of the hybrid dimension.”

The legacy business has its place, so long as it doesn’t interfere or compromise with the hybrid infrastructure it will ultimately reside.

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