IBM Red Hat cloud innovation
IBM Red Hat cloud innovation

Look Who’s Driving Disruptive Innovation in the Cloud: IBM!

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Rejuvenated by Red Hat and finally willing to fuse traditional strengths with powerful innovations, IBM is redefining the booming cybersecurity market with cloud-based solutions optimized for today’s hybrid cloud and multicloud environments.

While IBM’s introduction last week of the Cloud Pak for Security platform is definitely intriguing from the perspective of products and solutions, I believe it’s far more compelling as an indicator of a sharply reinvigorated IBM that’s becoming an aggressive innovator in the enterprise-cloud market.

IBM’s Recipe for Reinvigoration

IBM has five hugely valuable assets to exploit if it chooses to become more of the T-Rex these times call for and less of the Brontosaurus that has seen its cloud business pretty much stagnate for the past 2-1/2 years. Those are:

  • $20 billion in trailing 12-month cloud revenue;
  • a roster of clients and relationships around the world that’s second to none;
  • an unparalleled set of technologies capable of spanning mainframe to cloud and all point in-between; 
  • a fabled R&D organization that seems to have recognized it has to create breakthroughs relevant for today, not just for 7 years down the road; and 
  • a newly inspired sense of leadership that realizes that if the company misses the cloud market, the long-term damage to the company may be irreparable.

Cloud Wars

Top 10 Rankings — Nov. 25, 2019

1. Microsoft —Major IaaS deal w/#3 Salesforce follows Q1 cloud revenue of $11.6B
2. Amazon —Can’t be happy about Salesforce moving Marketing Cloud to Azure IaaS
3. Salesforce —Big Dreamforce dreams: How Benioff Plans To Defeat Oracle and SAP
4. SAP —Life after McDermott: new co-CEOs unify priorities, push customer success
5. Oracle — Ellison and SAP both claim #1 spot in enterprise apps—which will it be?
6. Google — No Q3 cloud revenue details, but “significant growth” across the globe
7. IBM — Q3 cloud rev. up 14% to $5B; BofA says cloud has saved billions in IT costs
8. Workday —Exclusive: Aneel Bhusri is Workday’s “Pied Piper of Machine Learning”
9. ServiceNow —Bill McDermott takes over as CEO as Q3 revenue reaches $900M
10. AccentureNo longer breaking out cloud revenue but probably close to $10B

These new cloud-based security solutions represent an intriguing expression of all those strengths. To get a sense of how, we can look at IBM’s recent fusion of deep and unparalleled industry expertise with cutting-edge cloud technology. I analyzed that vertical-industry initiative about three weeks ago, in a piece called IBM Cloud Unleashes its True Competitive Advantage: Tech Plus Industry Expertise. Here’s a key section:

Blending technological and industry prowess that few if any competitors can match, IBM is fully exploiting its financial-services expertise by creating that industry’s first public-cloud platform with Bank of America as an anchor tenant.

This superior combination of extensive cloud-computing capabilities with several decades of experience in managing mission-critical workloads for financial institutions across the globe puts IBM in a great position to become a preferred cloud vendor for a complex and highly regulated industry that’s eager to accelerate its move into the public cloud.”

Because of the stringent regulatory requirements regarding compliance, security and resilience, many banks and other financial institutions have been loath to pursue public-cloud deployments. The reluctance has persisted in spite of the various business advantages the cloud would deliver.

The Financial Services-Ready Public Cloud

IBM hopes to change all that. And it plans to do so with what it’s calling a “financial services-ready public cloud.” While that nomenclature’s rather industrial, the wide-ranging appeal of the platform plus IBM’s banking-industry knowledge has generated a huge collaborative commitment from Bank of America.

Calling the partnership with IBM “one of the most-important collaborations in the financial-services industry cloud space,” Bank of America chief operations and technology officer Cathy Bessant cited a few specific benefits. Specifically:

  • It allows the bank to use the public cloud while meeting or exceeding all industry requirements for data security, resiliency, privacy and customer information.
  • And it could well lead the way to a public-cloud “safety level that is unmatched,” Bessant said in a press release announcing the platform and the collaboration.
IBM’s New North Star: Creating Value for Customers

IBM is sweeping aside its business-unit silos and recombining some of its strategic assets in ways that create significant new value for customers in both of these cases. And it’s doing so, even if the moves confound some of IBM’s internal org-chart politics.

In the process, IBM will surely recognize even more of these customer-centric opportunities across its massive $80-billion organization. But for those efforts to succeed, the company must continue to push internal politics aside. It must base all decisions on what customers want and need.

With the new Cloud Pak for Security, I’m impressed with the three big business-driven capabilities offered by the new solutions:

  • Data can be analyzed for security implications wherever that data happens to reside—it doesn’t need to be hunted down, pulled together, reformatted, repotted and so on.
  • Cloud Pak for Security orchestrates cybersecurity workflows across the many dozens of security platforms, applications and formats many businesses currently use. 
  • The new security platform works with private clouds, public clouds, on-premises systems, and across multiple clouds.
Closing Comment

Kudos for IBM for taking the essential but difficult step of shaking up its culture in order to unleash new combinations of products and services and expertise. These new ventures will not only create significant new value for customers, but also big and much-needed growth opportunities for IBM.

Disclosure: at the time of this writing, IBM was a client of Evans Strategic Communications LLC.


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