At the heart of IBM's cloud computing push is SoftLayer, the $2 billion dollar acquisition that provides the infrastructure and automation underpinning of IBM's cloud. To realize its cloud ambitions, IBM must find a way to connect its existing base of enterprise customers to the SoftLayer platform.
A key ingredient in IBM's effort is Blue Mix, a Platform as a Service offering that Big Blue introduced last month. Platform as a Service helps developers and customers frame and launch an application more easily than with the raw resources of an Infrastructure as a Service cloud offering.
In less than a month, more than 5,000 users are now testing the BlueMix platform.
SoftLayer Growth Accelerates
Since its acquisition nine months ago, SoftLayer has gained 3,500 clients, essentially growing twice as fast as it was pre-acquisition. This was to be expected, as IBM has a large clientele it can sell into SoftLayer. The key will be if the company can sustain excellent growth numbers after the initial boost from cross-selling. So far, it looks like a very successful acquisition, with SoftLayer acting as the keystone to IBM’s big cloud push.
SoftLayer has also been automating and streamlining its online storefront to accommodate new client requests. Automation plays a big role in SoftLayer's success.The company says many customers are coming to it after switching from Amazon Web Services.
SoftLayer has traditionally been for the technically savvy customer, who needs a little less hand holding. IBM has been layering on services, using SoftLayer as the foundation that moves the tradition of automation even further, through initiatives like BlueMix.
BlueMix Making Progress
BlueMix is based on IBM’s Open Cloud Architecture and Cloud Foundry, with SoftLayer acting as the underpinning of the platform. BlueMix provides DevOps in the cloud. After selecting a variety of open source technologies and back-ends, BlueMix provisions the entire environment in the cloud.
The company has been pushing BlueMix hard, trying to get word out on the initiative and offering an 8-10 week collaboration with jStart to help customers develop a proof of concept on "still in the oven" assets and technology. jStart is an IBM team that helps companies get launched on IBM technologies. The company also recently launched jStart China, a team focused on engaging clients in China with emerging technologies. China is the wild west of cloud right now (in terms of adoption, not necessarily freedom) so several companies like Microsoft and AWS are increasing their focus in the region.
While BlueMix is in open beta, the company is announcing a few interesting customer cases.
Pitney Bowes Releases Location Services API
Pitney Bowes has collaborated to create location services, creating one of the first Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) available through BlueMix. The location services help businesses drive a more contextual experience for customers based on their geography.
"Together, IBM and Pitney Bowes are developing a powerful lineup of cloud services around mobile application development and location intelligence,” said Steve Robinson, General Manager, IBM Cloud Platform Services. “This open-platform collaboration will inspire development that accelerates innovation and fosters growth.”
More than 1.2 billion people around the world use Pitney Bowes location intelligence solutions when they check in or use location-sharing features on major social media platforms. The API allows developers to bake in this kind of functionality to their applications. Some examples given is the ability for insurers to improve underwriting decisions using accurate location data, retailers delivering more targeted promotions to consumers.
GameStop Running on BlueMix
Video game retail store GameStop launched the GameStop Technology Institute. Joining GameStop as founding partners of GTI is IBM and the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School.
GameStop will leverage BlueMix to build new mobile and cloud applications that integrate with GameStop’s existing systems, creating a hybrid cloud environment that will allow GameStop to add greater context around both in-store and online customer interactions. It will mix customer’s in store and online interactions to help improve the level of service.
It’s an interesting partnership because Gamestop is a very physical retail store in an industry that keeps moving towards digital: video games. They’re using BlueMix to help balance those worlds.
“We are excited to collaborate with GameStop to bring the power of our cloud development platforms and design teams to the greater GameStop community,” said Steve Robinson, General Manager of IBM Cloud Platform Services. “This cloud partnership will integrate existing systems into a new class of applications to build even deeper relationships for GameStop with their clients and will help GameStop lead the next phase of retailing by restoring the balance between physical and digital commerce platforms.”