Betting that its $34-billion acquisition of Red Hat will trigger new growth, IBM says its two-year overhaul of its vast cloud portfolio plus Red Hat gives it the “most open” cloud in the industry precisely as customers are demanding open-source solutions.
But is IBM truly the “most open” cloud? Is it more open than Google, or Microsoft, or Oracle?
And even if it is, will customers buy it?
IBM’s Challenges and Opportunities
Those questions are fully legitimate. At the same time, there’s no question that IBM has a broad and deep array of technologies, insights, relationships and capabilities that can be of enormous value to business customers today and tomorrow. I touched on some of this recently in a piece called IBM’s $34-Billion Payback Plan for Red Hat.
But across IBM’s vast and century-old business—and across the deep-set culture that’s a by-product of its history and of its past successes—can IBM convince customers that it is now as fully dedicated to the cloud revolution as are the competitors mentioned above?
IBM’s attempting to answer that question by going all-in on three key value propositions:
- first, as noted above, it’s rewritten all of its cloud technologies to be the “most open” enterprise cloud;
- second, its long history in the on-premises world plus its new open-source commitment give it hybrid-cloud expertise no one else can match; and
- third, those two pieces plus the addition of Red Hat can make it a leader in the red-hot market for true multicloud solutions.
As part of my effort to assess the strategic impact of not only the Red Hat acquisition but also its place in IBM’s ongoing overhaul of its cloud capabilities, I recently sent a number of questions to the IBM Cloud team. Here are some relevant excerpts from IBM’s answers, along with shortened versions of my questions.
1. IBM Cloud and Red Hat are putting great emphasis on being “cloud native.” What does that term mean to IBM and what value does it promise to customers?
“As it relates to this recent news announcement, IBM recognized the value containers play early on, and invested two years of IBM research and development resources to transform our software portfolio to be cloud-native. The new cloud-native capabilities we are talking about as part of this news are being delivered as pre-integrated solutions called IBM Cloud Paks. Our software is now cloud native and can now run on public and private clouds, on-prem — anywhere the client needs it….”
“Generally speaking, the ‘cloud native’ shift boils down to enterprises need to innovate at a substantially faster pace than ever before in order to remain competitive. At its core, cloud native is about bringing new value to end users by leveraging the benefits of cloud computing. Enterprises doing this well have embraced technologies such a Kubernetes, Istio, knative, etc that leverage automation and management features so developers spend less time managing workloads and more time creating values for their end users. This shift is often triggered by technology but also requires a complete culture, communication, process and mindset shift. We’ve demonstrated that transformation here at IBM in our cloud organization and our clients look to us to replicate that transformation.”
“… Customers want flexibility in how and where they build and deploy their applications, and so we’ve also optimized our software portfolio to run on any cloud with Red Hat OpenShift. Taken together, we give clients the ability to build mission-critical applications once and run them anywhere.”
2. How does this sweeping cloud transformation tie back to the brand promises IBM Cloud made a year or two ago?
“Enterprises today are about 20% into their cloud journeys and focused on shifting mission-critical workloads to the cloud and optimizing everything from supply chains to core banking systems. Our original tenets — designed for data, AI ready, secure to core — are all relevant components to giving clients the speed, agility and freedom they need to succeed on this journey:
- Clients want simple and rapid portability to move data and applications across multiple clouds.
- They need a cloud provider they trust has security baked in throughout the entire stack, and who has a deep understanding of a client’s unique industry needs as they navigate managing data, services, and workflows across environments
- They want to spend less time maintaining legacy apps and more time innovating with advanced analytics, AI and machine learning that can surface new insights and revenue streams
“Most importantly — today, IBM Cloud is the most open and secure public cloud for business. Open architectures, based on Kubernetes and containers, are driving the next wave of cloud-based business innovation. That’s why IBM has just completed a two-year journey to rebuild its public cloud on a foundation of open source software.”
3. With the Red Hat acquisition, is IBM still in the public-cloud business or will it refocus on PaaS around Red Hat?
“IBM’s public cloud, which is a full-stack cloud platform, including both PaaS and IaaS as well as AI, IoT, Blockchain, is integral to the IBM Cloud strategy. IBM Cloud’s IaaS delivers the foundation our global enterprise clients need to drive productivity, performance and scalability.
“IBM’s public cloud is the most open and most secure cloud”—there are those claims again; but how will IBM *prove* those claims?—“for business and therefore optimized for supporting enterprises’ hybrid cloud journey. We also support all clouds and multicloud environments because that’s what clients want today as they navigate running anywhere between 6-15 clouds environments… IBM provides a global network of more than 60 cloud data centers across 19 countries and 18 availability zones across 6 IBM Cloud regions to help meet performance and deployment requirements.”
Disclosure: at the time of this writing, IBM was a client of Evans Strategic Communications LLC.
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