Channel has big role in IBM’s new cloud focus

IBM Software and Systems chief Steve Mills

IBM Software and Systems chief Steve Mills

We’re still in the very early stages of cloud adoption, says Steve Mills, senior vice president of IBM Software and Systems, but a new study indicates cloud usage will increase significantly over the next few years and Big Blue is launching a new set of channel-friendly offerings to address the next shift in enterprise cloud adoption.

It’s all about the idea of optimization, he said during a press briefing at last week’s Pulse 2012 event in Las Vegas. In essence, customers are asking why do they have to buy the cow to get the milk? They don’t, he says, hence the growth in IT as a Service (IaaS) and cloud computing.

According to a new study by IBM and the Economist Intelligence Unit, nearly 90% of businesses are moving beyond virtualization, but just 16% of respondents said they are already using cloud capabilities for ‘sweeping innovation’, such as entering new lines of business or reshaping an existing one. By 2015 that number will have more than doubled to 35%. Mills also said there are more than 30 million servers installed globally, but that the average Intel-based server is still only operating at 10% capacity. So even virtualizing servers is still very much a growth market.

Organizations looking to take the next step beyond virtualized data centers and expand their cloud environments are having to deal with what is called ‘virtual image sprawl’, reports IBM. Virtual images are tripling every two years, outpacing the doubling in compute power and essentially flat IT budgets. The company says that with current operating practices, organizations will need 1.5 times the physical infrastructure and twice the labor every two years to support cloud. Clearly something has to give, it says.

That’s where IBM’s new SmartCloud offerings are expected to help, providing improved visibility, control and automation for organizations to securely manage and deploy cloud services. The company says its latest software is a suite of best practice patterns for enabling integrated lifecycle management of cloud services, combining Rational Collaborative Lifecycle Management solutions with IBM SmartCloud Provisioning. The recent Green Hat acquisition will help IBM further extend these capabilities, reducing development lifecycle times by streamlining test cycles as applications are transitioned to cloud deployments. IBM is also extending secure cloud management to mobile devices and physical assets.

With the SmartCloud Foundation offerings, customers will be able to install, manage, configure and automate the creation of cloud services in private, public or hybrid environments, with faster delivery, lower risk and better control of the move to deploy cloud alongside their existing production environments.

The early results from clients using the software have been dramatic, says IBM. Delivery time has been shortened from months to days through end-to-end automation, standardization and repeatability. In addition, there’s been an average 20% reduction in resource costs, 40% more agility by streamlining operation and development collaboration with in-context communication, and a 20% increase in application service availability and performance.

IBM has also introduced Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices, to helps customers better manage and secure their mobile environments, including iPhone, iPad, Android-based phones and tablets, Windows Phone and Nokia Symbian devices. It can be installed in minutes, enabling users to quickly set policies remotely, monitor employees’ devices to identify potential data compromise and wipe data off the devices if they are lost or stolen, says IBM.

This is not just an enterprise play, so SMBs and the channel will benefit too, says IBM. The company says it has bundled its offerings with different capabilities and different price points, including an entry-level hardware and software solution.

The “virtual sprawl” that’s common in highly virtualized IT infrastructures, is likely to increase by orders of magnitude as companies move more fully into cloud-based processes, says Charles King, principal analyst, at Pund-IT. “Helping those companies effectively manage and keep up with the rapid changes inherent in cloud environments should become a lucrative market for IBM.” He adds that IBM customers and competitors need to understand that the company is playing well and competing aggressively across multiple existing markets, and adapting quickly to the changes it sees ahead.

“For customers, that means that IBM should be a valuable, trusted partner both today and for years to come. For competitors, it means that attacking IBM with simplistic point products and hyperbolic rhetoric is a losing proposition. If those vendors can’t step-up their games and their solution sets, the future is likely to be even uglier than are their present circumstances.”

King says IBM clearly seems to be in a solid leadership position across numerous markets; its middleware/software assets are miles ahead of HP, and its hardware platforms are drubbing Oracle and HP’s Itanium systems. However he cautions that the one vendor IBM tends to ignore is Dell, and he think that’s probably a mistake, particularly in relation to the cloud.

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